Brooklyn Real Estate Management Company Negatively Impacts Quality of Life in Ulster County.

 

Last evening, we attended the Sunset Gardens Tenant Association meeting at the Town of Ulster’s Senior Center.  One after another, tenants of apartment complexes in the Towns of Ulster and Esopus spoke of the shocking disrepair, unsafe conditions and treatment of those living at Sunset Gardens (ToU), Lakeshore Villas (ToE) and Black Creek Road (ToE).  Special thanks to Laura Hartmann and all of the citizens from Sunset Gardens who had the courage to organize.

The culprit – E & M Management – the real estate investment and management company based in Brooklyn, NY is mostly new to the area, gobbling up apartment complexes that include “68 apartments across from the Rondout Creek” in downtown Kingston and a vacant parcel near the Maritime Museum to build the “Kingston Waterfront Plaza”, a mixed-use project.  There is speculation that they are looking at Dutch Village, too – in uptown Kingston.

Although the planning process in Kingston is complete for their new build downtown – with a negative declaration in SEQR which is absolutely unbelievable – we are continuing our efforts to advocate for an improved development process for our planning department and planning board. We will keep a close eye on this company and work with our neighbors to assure that if E & M and all of their LLC partners want to come to our community, it is not on their terms.

Thanks to Clark Richters of The Kingston News for filming the event, brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

The Irish Cultural Center Gets a Pass to Move on to Site Plan Review

 

 

Click on the image of the map provided in the ICC’s FEAF regarding their parking waiver request.

CITIZEN CALL TO ACTION

Attend the Planning Board’s public hearing and speak to the ICC’s Site Plans and Parking Waiver.

WHEN:
Monday, April 16th, 2018
6:00pm

WHERE:
City Hall Council Chambers, 420 Broadway in Kingston

VIEW
The ICC Site Plan from March of 2018

 

by Hillary Harvey

On March 8, 2018, the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley (ICC) got a pass from the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals to move on to the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review when it overturned another City Commission’s decision.

BACKGROUND

In what appears to be the City of Kingston’s first-ever appeal of a Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) decision, the ICC appealed the September 25th, 2017, decision by the HLPC to deny the application a preservation notice of action, the approval necessary for the application to obtain a building permit from Kingston Building and Safety.  HLPC commissioners cited concerns

HLPC commissioners cited concerns with:

  • the width of the building
  • the proposal’s harmony with existing buildings and the desired character of the neighborhood
  • relation of the proposed building to neighboring buildings surrounding it
  • and proportion (how it fits in overall with the district)

The Zoning Board of Appeals heard evidence on the appeal and decided that the HLPC had approved the application in the past. They rendered their decision to overturn the HLPC’s decision and issue the preservation notice of action itself on March 8, 2018..

We looked for another instance where an HLPC decision was appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals in the City of Kingston but weren’t able to find any evidence of one.  The City’s Corporation Counsel together with the ICC’s lawyer determined that next step in an appeals process from their interpretation of the City’s Zoning Law for the HLPC:

§ 405-69 Appeals. 

Any person aggrieved by an action of the Commission in disapproving or limiting a preservation notice of action application and the Zoning Board’s support of such Commission action may bring a proceeding to review in a manner provided by Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules in a court of record on the ground that such decisions are illegal, in whole or in part.

What Are the Next Steps in the Process for the Public

On March 19th, 2018, the ICC returned to the City of Kingston’s Planning Board for Site Plan Review and a Parking Waiver request.  The Planning Board decided at that meeting to schedule a public hearing on those two elements of the application to be held on Monday, April 16th. 

The Site Plan has been updated to address some of the comments from the HLPC. The ICC is required by the City to provide 55 parking spaces, based upon calculations of the square footage of the building.  The ICC is offering to provide 8 parking spaces in a private parking lot next to the proposed building.  They are requesting a Parking Waiver for the remaining 47 spaces based on the availability of municipal and street parking within 400 feet of the ICC property.

Call to Action

Citizens are invited to attend the Planning Board’s public hearing and speak to the ICC’s Site Plans and Parking Waiver on Monday, April 16th, 2018, beginning at 6:00 pm. Kingston City Hall is located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Talking Points

PARKING:

*The ICC would be but one element of commercial activity in the Rondout.  Nearby restaurants, museums, and waterfront attractions already compete for parking.  The ICC’s proposed uses and inability to provide sufficient parking for itself would increase stress on other local businesses and Rondout economic development.

*The Rondout neighborhood is a deeply residential neighborhood where the majority of housing does not have driveways and residents rely upon street and municipal parking, particularly in the event of snow emergency parking restrictions.  The ICC would greatly increase stress on residents in relying heavily on municipal and street parking by preventing them from finding parking near their homes.

*The ICC’s proposal to use municipal lots for their parking needs would take away from mandated public access to the Marina and other water-based activities as outlined in the LWRP.

SAFETY (We don’t want the construction site to become an attractive nuisance.):

* The construction site needs to be secured with sturdy fencing or security guard every day.

ACCESS:

* Any closure of Company Hill Path will affect business and restrict public access to a National Register of Historic Places site.

LOGISTICS:

* What kind of funding do they have to complete the construction in a timely manner?
* What is their timeframe for construction?  What happens if they don’t meet the timeframe?

REQUEST:

  1. Don’t make a decision on the application on the same night as the public hearing.  The Planning Board members need time to digest the information submitted at the public hearing and in some cases, may need to conduct further research.  A vote that evening would appear to be a rush to approve the project.
  2. Deny the parking waiver.
  3. If site plan approval is granted, it should be contingent upon:
    1. No banquet hall use allowed, as the ICC promised.
    2. No noise permits granted and no outside speakers.
    3. No uses not fully enclosed in a structure allowed.
    4. Additional changes to the exterior should be reviewed by the HLPC.
    5. Only upon satisfactory answers to safety, access, and funding questions above.


Hillary Harvey is a journalist, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly , a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

KingstonCitizens.org’s Early Years. It All Began With a Ward Group.

By Rebecca Martin

While cleaning out boxes of old materials, I came across three of the original “Ward 9 Community Group” newsletters from back in 2007.  We’ve been at this a long time.  The Ward 9 Community Group was the effort that ultimately established KingstonCitizens.org as it is known today.

Enjoy these.

 

June 21st, 2007 (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured former Mayor James Sottile and GAR Associates to discuss the revaluation process in Kingston.   The outcome, some residents saw their taxes double within a years time.

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on Sex offenders and current County Laws with former legislators Frank Dart and Jeannette Provenzano as well as DA Don Williams and more.

July 19th, 2007  (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured the historian Lowell Thing to discuss how to care and repair your historic Bluestone Sidewalk.

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on GAR Associates and Former Mayor James Sottile to explain the revaluation process, and more.

August 16th, 2007  (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured then Director of SUNY Ulster Retired and Senior Volunteer Program “Volunteering in your community: citizenship can make a difference!”   The following month, we hosted the first educational forum on updating the City of Kingston Comprehensive Plan with Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Suzanne Cahill and Dennis Doyle.  There were over 100 citizens in attendance!

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on caring for your Bluestone Sidewalks with Lowell Thing, and more.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: Public Comment Brainstorming Session on Sunday, March 4th from 10am – 5pm and a Question About Eminent Domain.

WHAT TO EXPECT

VISIT: Our Facebook Event Page

On Sunday, March 4th, a Public Comment Brainstorming Session will occur at the Town of Ulster Senior Center located at 1 Town Hall Drive in Lake Katrine, NY (adjacent to the Town of Ulster Town Hall).

Citizens will have the opportunity to work together with experts to draft strong comments of concern for study as it pertains to the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster.  Participants will work with a projected Google Doc. The afternoon will be facilitated by Rebecca Martin (KingstonCitizens.org), Laura Hartman and Regis Obijiski (TownOfUlsterCitizens.org).  Please bring your computer and any materials you wish to share with others.

As this is a ‘potluck’ affair, citizens are invited to bring a dish to share.  Food will be organized and served throughout the day thanks to Vince Guido.

This event is open to all citizens, NFP and municipal leaders wanting to contribute.

Sponsored by TownOfUlsterCitizens.org with support from KingstonCitizens.org


SCHEDULE AND EXPERTS


10am – 11:30am: ON EMISSIONS AND NOISE

Experts on Hand will include Evelyn Wright, Energy Economist, Sustainable Energy Economics, and member of Citizens for Local Power

11:30am – 1:30pm: ON COMMUNITY CHARACTER, COMMUNITY SERVICES, RUPTURES/FAILURES AND CULTURAL RESOURCES.
Experts on hand will include Kevin McEvoy

1:30pm – 2:30pm: ON FLORA AND FAUNA
Experts on hand will include Nora Budziack

2:30pm – 4pm: ON WATER (SURFACE, GROUND, WETLANDS, STORM WATER, WASTEWATER AND INFRASTRUCTURE)
Experts on hand will include TBA

4pm – 5pm: ON SOCIOECONOMIC, FISCAL AND ALTERNATIVES
Experts on hand will include Audrey Friedrichsen, Land Use and Environmental Advocacy Attorney, Scenic Hudson

VISIT  ToU “Proposed Project” page for all relevant Lincoln Park Grid Documents.

 

By Rebecca Martin

On Sunday, March 4th, Citizens of Ulster County (and beyond) are invited to a Public Comment Brainstorming session in the Town of Ulster.  The event, created to support citizens in creating Scoping comments for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project, a gas-fired peak power plant project in the Town of Ulster, will occur from 10am – 5pm at the Town of Ulster Senior Center (1 Town Hall Drive) in the Town of Ulster.

With a positive declaration announced on February 1st, the Town of Ulster (as Lead Agency) also released the Draft Scope for the proposal. Coalition partners (that include Catskill Mountainkeeper, KingstonCitizens.org, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, CAPP – NY and Sierra Club Mid-Hudson Valley) and the public requested through letters and petitions a 90 day public comment period.  The Town approved 50 days, instead of 30 – making the deadline for public comment to be Thursday, March 22nd.

What is Scoping in SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) and why is it so important to the public and a project such as the proposed GlidePath Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak power plant in the Town of Ulster?

The purpose of scoping is to narrow issues and ensure that the draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) will be a concise, accurate and complete document that is adequate for public review.

The scoping process is intended to:

  • ensure public participation in the EIS development process;
  • allow open discussion of issues of public concern; and
  • permit inclusion of relevant, substantive public issues in the final written scope.

The scoping process can also allow the lead agency and other involved agencies to reach agreement on relevant issues in order to minimize the inclusion of unnecessary issues. Finally, scoping should help the sponsor avoid the submission of an obviously deficient draft EIS.

In a recent document provided to us by Andy Willner (founder of NY/NJ Baykeeper), he outlined for the public “SEQR for GlidePath Scoping”:

The Scope of Work shall require the applicant to:

  • consider relevant environmental impacts, facts and conclusions as required under SEQR; 
  • assess relevant environmental, social, economic and other adverse impacts; 
  • certify  how this project can be consistent with social, economic and other essential considerations 
  • assess how the action avoids or minimizes adverse environmental effects to the maximum extent practicable, and that adverse environmental impacts will be avoided or minimized to the maximum extent practicable.

 This is the “teeth” of SEQRA, and the only provision which clearly takes it beyond a mere environmental full disclosure procedure, and requires substantive results:

  • Therefore by including these analyses in the required scope of work the agency will have the information to enable it to consider fully the environmental consequences and to take these consequences into account when reaching a decision whether or not to approve an action. 

The scope of work shall include language that requires the applicant to prepare an EIS that must assess:

  • the environmental impact of the proposed action including short-term and long–term effects, 
  • any adverse environmental effects, 
  • any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources, 
  • and “growth inducing aspects” of the proposed action.

The Scope of Work must require the applicant to consider all viable alternatives:

  • ………….contain an evaluation of “alternatives to the proposed action. The analysis of alternatives has been called the “driving spirit” of the SEQRA process.  The “range of alternatives must include the no-action alternative,” and “may also include, as appropriate, alternative: 
    • sites; 
    • technology; 
    • scale or magnitude; 
    • design; 
    • timing;
    • use; 

The Scope of work requires the applicant to assess the cumulative Impacts to water, air, wildlife, and quality of life:

What are the cumulative impacts? 

  • These are impacts on the environment that result from the incremental or increased impact of an action(s) when the impacts of that action are added to other past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions. 
  • Cumulative impacts can result from a single action or a number of individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time. 
  • Either the impacts or the actions themselves must be related. 
  • Cumulative impacts must be assessed when actions are proposed to or will foreseeably take place simultaneously or sequentially in a way that their combined impacts may be significant. Considering the cumulative effects of related actions insures against stratagems to avoid the required environmental review by breaking up a proposed development into component parts which, individually, do not have sufficient environmental significance.” 

Because it is often difficult to distinguish between segmentation and the failure to address cumulative impacts and courts often muddle the concepts the applicant must include in its scope of work information to assist the agency in determining whether or not the project will both address cumulative impacts and avoid segmentation:

  • SEQRA generally prohibits “segmentation,” which is defined as “the division of the environmental review of an action such that various activities or stages are addressed under this Part as though they were independent, unrelated activities, needing individual determinations of significance. Accordingly, “[e]nvironmental review of the entire project is required before ‘any significant authorization is granted for a specific proposal.’ The SEQRA regulations prescribe the basic contents of an EIS 

In the EIS, the lead agency is required to 

  • identify the relevant areas of environmental concern, 
  • take a “hard look” at them, 
  • and make a “reasoned elaboration” of the basis for its determination.

Additionally because this is a complex process the agency shall require the applicant to provide not just access to all of its consultants work products but funds to assist the agency in analyzing the materials to enable it to make a determination.  The agency may use these funds to hire professional engineers, environmental consultants, and for legal advice.

 

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS:

VISIT  ToU “Proposed Project” page for all relevant Lincoln Park Grid Documents.

VIEW:  SEQR and GlidePath by Andy Willner

VIEW: SEQR Scope of Work by Andy Willner

 

 

HEADS UP: ON EMINENT DOMAIN AND THE TOWN OF ULSTER.

At the Town of Ulster Town Board Workshop meeting on March 1st, an item on eminent domain near the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project lands certainly caught my attention.

During the meeting, Supervisor James Quigley’s description of “Discussion on start of Eminent Domain Proceedings on a portion of Parcel SBL 48.12-1-20, corner of Miron Lane and Sottile Blvd, owned by Kingston Landing Development Corp”  seemed to indicate nothing more than the opportunity for the Town to acquire a parcel via eminent domain that would allow its entrance to the transfer station to be free and clear forevermore.

Later, during the public comment period, Town of Ulster citizen Dan Furman asked the Town Board, “….isn’t this what GlidePath is buying?”

“Yes. You’re absolutely right….the eminent domain takes it away from them before they buy it.”  said Supervisor Quigley.

The Town Board has given permission for a survey to take place, and for Town of Ulster lawyers to start drafting paperwork for the transaction to be approved at the next Town Board meeting (on March 15).

To be sure, it is recommended that citizens look into this land agreement more fully and request an explanation as to the suddenness of this transaction and whether or not it is an emergency situation.  If it is not, then perhaps it’s wise to request that the Town of Ulster delay any activity on lands that involves GlidePath and the Town of Ulster until the SEQR review is complete. 

LISTEN  Town of Ulster Town Board Workshop Meeting.

@ 6:28 – 9:06  – An explanation by the Town of Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley on the need for eminent domain, where there is no mention of GlidePath.

@ 28:23 – 29:00 –  Town of Ulster Citizen Dan Furman inquires whether or not the parcel under discussion re: eminent domain is a part of what GlidePath is looking to acquire.  “Yes, you are absolutely right” says Supervisor Quigley. 

UCIDA Rejects Request for Meeting Time Change.

This morning, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) rejected requests to move their regular meeting time from 8:00am to after 5:00pm.

Here are some of the highlights of the morning board discussion.

Several members challenged KingstonCitizens.org as having a large base but only producing a handful of letter requests and citizens before them on the matter.  Last month when the item was before the board, it was tabled for further discussion. This occurred right before the holidays in late December, giving the public a narrow opportunity to submit a letter of support for a meeting time change.

Ask even the savviest of citizens what the UCIDA does and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who can tell you. This is in part why we thought to pursue a meeting time change as a first step could allow for the potential of participation.  For those board members who attributed their rejection in part due to the number of requests as insignificant, it is a poor way to build bridges of trust and better relations with the public, particularly those who wish to be more of a participant in the important work of the UCIDA.

During the discussion, a citizen shared the trouble that he encountered entering the public building a little ahead of 8am, being stopped by an officer on the ground floor level of the Ulster County building. The chair of the board in jest responded “you don’t look like a terrorist.”

Another board member, perhaps in reaction to the citizens in attendance being Kingston residents, shared with us his insight that ‘there is a bigger world outside of Kingston”.

Citizens had some trouble hearing the board during their discussions in Legislative Chambers, where microphones were available. Perhaps next month, if the group meets in the same location and there are people in the audience, they might elect to set them up.

There were some useful points made to consider, such as the potential ‘overtime’ necessary to pay staff for evening meetings,  although this had not been mentioned last month as a consideration.  One could also sympathize with other members of the board who outlined their personal reasons as to why a time change was a challenge.  I was pleased that the board, on their own, requested to create palm cards with a simple explanation of PILOTs to be made available for the public in attendance.

In the end, my take-away was that the point was missed and that is, to include the public in new ways is a multi-prong process. Changing the meeting time should have been seen as a first step.  Outreach and making process accessible and easy to understand (transparency), another. Ongoing storytelling and communication, another. Participation, when it doesn’t exist, takes time and effort and the board has three Ulster County employees appointed to them as staff to help. That the public does not regularly attend this or any other important public hearings, board, committee or commission meetings is a failing of at least these things.

Thanks to those who took the time to participate. We’ll try again another time, in some other way.

The UCIDA AND PILOTs: Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

VIEW our Event Page for the UCIDA’s Wednesday Meeting

VIEW our Petition “UCIDA and PILOTs:  Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

###


Citizens have voiced concern about a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Tax)
agreement and other tax incentives currently on the table for the ‘Hudson Valley Kingston Development (HVKD) LLC’ proposal in Uptown, Kingston.

According to their application, they propose to  “build four boutique hotels in historic Uptown Kingston. There will be 43 hotel rooms in total, with a restaurant at the 301 Wall Street location. This will create a welcome space for community events and gatherings, and stimulate much-needed tourism and revenue for surrounding businesses.”
REVIEW  HVKD’s application

Last week, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) held a public hearing on the HVKD’s application. Very few members of the public were in attendance.

In our opinion, that’s probably because UCIDA’s process can be difficult to follow, especially for something like a PILOT agreement or tax abatements. Often, meetings are insufficiently publicized leaving many citizens in the dark.

Incentives are important tools in attracting and supporting business. Allocations of tax dollars in this context are governed by state law and to that end, there are real checks and balances here.

However if the public is not properly made aware of the opportunities that they have throughout the process, then only a handful of appointed officials are in a position to make decisions that will certainly extend beyond their tenure. For that reason alone, it is in everyone’s best interest for a transparent process to be a priority, one that will allow citizens a better understanding and to enter into a more robust discussion.

The next meeting on the proposal is to occur on Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am (in the Karen Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY).  To help the public proceed in an organized manner, we offer the following information and a recommendation for the public to make to the UCIDA board for their consideration.   

VIEW  our Event Page for more information on Wednesday’s meeting.

Background on Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) From the NYS Comptroller.

First, appointments to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency are made via resolution by the membership of the Ulster County Legislature.  Members serve at the pleasure of the Legislature.  

The Ulster County IDA must follow State law, based on background provided by the NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the role of IDA’s in New York State are charged with the following:

“Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) are authorized to provide financial assistance for certain types of projects. Financial assistance includes the issuance of bonds by the IDA to finance construction of a project and straight-lease transactions. Because IDAs’ property and activities are tax exempt, the IDA may pass the benefits of certain tax exemptions (e.g., real property, sales and mortgage recording taxes) to the private entities that undertake the projects. The loss of revenue associated with these tax exemptions can be offset with an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), under which the private entity agrees to pay all or a portion of the taxes that would otherwise have been imposed had the project not been an IDA project. The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”

In addition to making these decisions, the IDA must also provide follow-up on the projects where they have provided support.

“The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”

The 2016 New York State IDA Law

In 2016, laws were put into place to increase the accountability and efficiency of IDAs.

“In June 2016, new legislation became effective to increase the accountability and improve the efficiency and transparency of IDA operations. For new projects, the law requires standard application forms for requests for financial assistance, uniform criteria for the evaluation and selection for each category of projects for which financial assistance is provided, uniform project agreements, annual assessments on project progress including job creation and retention, as well as policies to recapture, discontinue or modify financial assistance or tax exemptions.”

 

Next Steps in the process for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC PILOT agreement and tax incentives.

On Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am, the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC is listed in the (Draft) AGENDA #12: Projects “Hudson Valley Kingston Development (Public Hearing held on October 4, 2017)”.  There isn’t information listed as to whether or not the board will be making a decision regarding PILOTS or other available tax incentives for this proposal.  Therefore, it’s important to make your voice heard now – and you can do so by

SIGNING OUR PETITION:  UCIDA and PILOTs – Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.   VIEW 

The County must carry on its important business for the residents of Ulster County. We also support and appreciate new business opportunities in our area.  However, given the concerns of the public, we request that any approvals of tax incentives for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC be delayed by the board to allow the following:

  1. Provide additional public educational opportunities on the UCIDA’s process in assigning PILOTS and tax incentives to proposed projects, including, but not limited to:

    * The necessary documentation that is required as evidence that an applicant demonstrates a need for a PILOT or other tax incentives as well as to show that the applicant has exhausted all other available options based on NYSEDC recommendations.
      VIEW

    * Explain UCIDA’s Uniform Tax POLICY that, based on the MATRIX determines the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) hourly rates assessed as per the number of jobs it will create.

  2. How the UCIDA applies recommendations to this, and all project considerations, provided by the Ulster County Comptroller from his 2014 report “A Study of the Impact and Best Practices for Industrial Development Agencies”, specifically:* Support only Projects which likely will not proceed but for IDA assistance;* Require market analyses for “retail” (and services) Projects;* Calculate costs and benefits specifically attributable to IDA assistance;* Give PILOT points only for jobs attributable to IDA assistance;

    * Interpret the cost-benefit analysis with care;

    * Require proof of pre-assistance employment levels;

    * Maximize public access to information;

    * Consider a scoring category for local support.

  3. The UCIDA’s follow-up procedures after-tax incentives are awarded.

  4. Additional public hearings to be scheduled and publicized for more public input.

 

Who is KingstonCitizens.org?

Recently we learned of an inquiry made by the City of Kingston Republican Committee Chair and general practice attorney, Joesph Ingarra. Apparently, he took it upon himself to write to the state Attorney General’s (AG) office, requesting that they investigate KingstonCitizens.org as a Political Action Committee (PAC).  He placed his request into a press release sent to several local news outlets to “investigate and report”.

Mr. Ingarra neglected to take the opportunity to reach out to us to clarify his concerns prior to his request to the AG. As a member of the legal profession, one would expect that he would understand the difference between a grass roots group and a PAC.

Here’s what is true.

Read more…

A More Democratic Approach to Public Meeting Discussions in the City of Kingston.

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) recently chose to change its format to allow the public an opportunity to participate on applications in real time, creating a more democratic format for both the applicant and the public. The changes provide a model of a more participatory meeting format that all City of Kingston boards, committees and commissions  might consider applying.

Currently, in the City of Kingston, the majority of committees and subcommittees offer public speaking at the discretion of the committee chair.  It is possible to reach out to the chair ahead of a meeting to let him/her know that citizens would like time to present comments or questions.

Read more…

Clarity on process. 300 Flatbush Ave. (RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal)

 

By Rebecca Martin

For some time, there has been much furor over the sale of 300 Flatbush Ave. (aka RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal),  a property owned by Ulster County.

Lets cut to the chase on a few critical items.

– To be clear, the City of Kingston hasn’t any say as to who the county sells its property to.

– After being on the market for a little over a year, RUPCO made an offer at the listed price for a project they want to create in that location called ‘The Alms House” or “Landmarks Place”.  Their goal is for it to become  “66 units that would comprise of 14 studio and 20 one-bedroom apartments in the approximately 28,000-square-foot 1870s landmark building at the site and 32 one-bedroom units for people ages 55 and older in the new 42,000-square-foot building.”

– The proposal went in front of the Kingston Planning Board where they determined the project to have a negative declaration in SEQR. In other words, they found it to have no environmental impacts that would require further study.

As part of Kingston’s code, the Kingston Common Council had 90 days to determine a zoning change that started months ago, with a request for it to be changed from single family to multi-family use. Whether multi-family or commercial, a zoning change will have to be determined in order for it to be placed back into any real use.

– In this case, once a zone change is made, the project site plan can be reviewed by the Kingston Planning Board, and the public will have more opportunities to help to shape the project.

These are the facts, and this is the process.

Read more…

PARTICIPATE! Attend Regular Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Council Meetings.

By Rebecca Martin

How can we improve local government? By becoming more civic-minded rather than a single issue participant and attending regular, monthly meetings of both the Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Common Council.  That’s a potent and simple place to start.

To help you to get on your way, KingstonCitizens.org has put together a schedule of 2017  for both elected bodies.   “Many hands make light work” as they say. If each of us attended one or two meetings a year and shared what we witnessed – the landscape would look and feel very different.

Here are simple steps you can take to become a more engaged, local citizen.

  1. Sign up for the dates and times that are most convenient for your schedule (see below)
  2. Attend meetings. Make sure you check the calendar prior to attending, as all dates/times are subject to change (see below).  Make sure you add the dates to your personal calendar so you are reminded of your commitments.
  3. Write a one-page (or more) summation of your experience.  What happened that evening? How many citizens were present? Did you speak during public comment? What issues were discussed?  What significant decisions were made?  What did you learn and what outcome would you like to see on the issues that were discussed that evening?
  4. Submit your piece to KingstonCitizens.org:  rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org to be shared in our “Citizen Opinions” section (rules apply).
  5. We can help you to identify your council and legislative representatives and will encourage you to send a copy of your report directly to them as well.

 

Get Started. 

  1. Ulster County Legislature:  Dem/Rep Caucus and Regular Legislative Session
    1. VIEW:  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW:   Check the Ulster County Legislature Calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change.  You can also access an agenda at the legislative site.
  2. Kingston Common Council: Caucus and Regular Meeting
    1. VIEW  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW: Check the City of Kingston municipal calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change. You can also access an agenda at the City of Kingston website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Join us in becoming familiar with local government.

VIDEO: The Ulster County Legislature Bans Memorializing Resolutions.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, with a 13/9 vote, the Ulster County Legislature banned memorializing resolutions.   Although our group is deeply disappointed in the outcome,  we will apply our new knowledge  about the legislature to our work throughout the remainder of the year and beyond.

Outside of a ban on memorializing resolutions, we learned that Local Law 18 from 2016 (Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity) had been held back in the Laws and Rules Committee for over a year. In other words, a simple public hearing on transgender rights was stalled and in essence, denied.

In other news, what appeared to be a dozen or so members of a local sportsman club in attendance,  the group appeared to mostly be there to oppose Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government And Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health, And Well-Being Of All Persons In Ulster County“.  Illustrating the law as Ulster County becoming a ‘sanctuary county’, at one point during public testimony, a member of the group stated, “…We know you will do the right thing. #138 has to go down. We have your back. Thank you very much”  (VIEW Tape #2 @ 21:00)

It was an evening that left me questioning motives. Why would our elected officials wish to limit free speech? Or deny the public a chance for public comment on gender equality? Or, be opposed to wanting to ensure “protection, order, conduct safety, health and well-being of all persons living in Ulster County”?  I haven’t any answers, only a sense. Control and fear. Both will wreck havoc, too. The public must remain diligent.

KingstonCitizens.org is seeking volunteers who are interested in attending monthly Ulster County Legislature meetings and report back to the public via KingstonCitizens.org. It’s our goal to build a larger base of public participation and, as always, encourage new potential candidates.  All legislature seats are up for election in November, 2017.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Special thanks to Clark Richters of the Kingston News for helping us to document the evening.

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Those in favor of a ban on memorializing resolutions were (RED: Republican, Conservative, etc;  BLUE: Democrat):

District 1 (Town of Saugerties)   Mary Wawro
District 3 (Town of Saugerties/Town of Ulster)  Dean Fabiano
District 4 (Town of Ulster/Town of Kingston) James Maloney
District 8 (Town of Esopus)  Carl Belfiglio
District 9 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Plattekill)  Herbert Litts III
District 10 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Marlboro)  Mary Beth Maio
District 11 (Town of Marlboro)  Richard Gerentine
District 12 (Town of Plattekill)  Kevin Roberts
District 13 (Town of Shawangunk) Ken Ronk
District 14 (Town of Shawangunk/Town of Wawarsing)  Craig Lopez
District 18 (Town of Hurley/Town of Marbletown)  Richard Parete
District 21 (Town of Rochester/Town of Wawarsing) Ronald G. Lapp
District 22 (Town of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive, and Shandaken)  John Parete

Those opposed:

District 2 (Town of Saugerties/Village of Saugerties)  Chris Allen
District 5 (City of Kingston) Peter Loughran
District 6 (City of Kingston)  Dave Donaldson
District 7 (City of Kingston)  Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 16 (Town of Gardiner/Town of Shawangunk) Tracey Bartels
District 17 (Town of Esopus/Town of New Paltz)  Jim Delaune
District 19 (Town of Marbletown/Town of Rosendale)  Manna Jo Greene
District 20 (Town of New Paltz/Village of New Paltz) Hector Rodriguez
District 23 (Town of Woodstock)  Jonathan Heppner

Absent:
District 15 (Town of Wawarsing, Town of Ellenville)  Thomas Briggs


VIDEO: Resolution No. 91 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW:  Legislative Discussion/Debate


Legislator Highlights
:

VIEW:  Ken Ronk and David Donaldson

VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky

Public Comment Highlights:

VIEW: Amy Fradon, Ban on Memorializing Resolution

VIEW:  County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe, Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIEW: Andrea Callan,  Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity (Local Law 18 of 2016) 

VIEW:  Candace Teetsel and Friend, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW: Jeff Rindler, ED of HV LGBTQ, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW:  Evie Starr, Local Law 18 of 2016

 

To view all public comment:
VIDEO #1   Starts at 36:30

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: “On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” with Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper.

“It’s difficult to overstate the seriousness of the environmental threats coming from this administration. We have never had a head of the EPA so hostile towards the mission of the agency, and never had a President so unwilling to make decisions based on science and law.”
– Kate Hudson, Waterkeeper Alliance

KingstonCitizens.org’s recent community educational forum “PART II:  On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” was at capacity.  Our special guest Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper helped participants understand better what was a stake today and what citizens can do.

VIEW video from the event.

Please be sure to visit our upcoming SCHEDULE to learn more about future community educational forums.

Special thanks to Kate Hudson for her generosity in sharing her knowledge as our guest panelist; Peter and Julie at Church des Artists for their space, kindness, and for making this video; and, to all of our KingstonCitizens.org volunteers for their assistance.

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Resources:
VIEW:  KingstonCitizens.org’s “Trump Administration Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws”

8:46 – 11:25
Introduction: On KingstonCitizens.org’s Community Educational Forum Series

Read more…

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17 – Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions. Public Comment and First Reading.

“Why would we want to diminish our voice and power as a legislature? Are our actions any less important than any other legislative body or branch of government to our constituents? If we think so, we should not hold the office.”   –  Jennifer Schwartz Berky,  Ulster County Legislator (Kingston, District 7)   from “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times.   VIEW

On Wednesday night, the Ulster County Legislature held its regular legislative session where the proposed ban on memorializing resolutions had its first reading. Other important items were debated (and adopted) including a memorializing resolution to request the NYS Legislature expand hate crimes (to include first responders and police officers) and, a resolution to prohibit cyber-bullying.

Thanks to all of the citizens who came out to speak that evening on a number of issues. We trust that watching these processes as thoroughly as you are will help to better assist you in speaking to your legislators on these important matters.

Speeches that were made by the Chairman, minority and majority leaders are located at the bottom of this post.

Filmed by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

FOR YOUR REFERENCE:

Resolution #91: “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW: “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times by Jennifer Schwartz Berky, District 7 Legislator

Resolution #92: “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05”

Resolution No. 89  Adopting Proposed Local Law No. 17 of 2016 (A Local Law Prohibiting Cyber-Bullying In Ulster County)”  

 

                     VIDEO ONE:  Public Comment Footage. See names and times below. 

Read more…

PROPOSED BAN ON MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTIONS. Process and Actions in March and April.

Last year, the Ulster County Legislature passed Resolution No. 251 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Set Procedure For Memorializing Resolutions”  In it, it sets some protocols for memorializing resolutions stating that “any resolution which memorializes the New York State Legislature, Congress of the United States, or any other body to take an action which will not require a home rule message, shall be submitted and considered in Committee in accordance with the procedures set forth in these Rules of Order. When presented for consideration at a monthly or special meeting of the Legislature, Memorializing Resolutions shall not be debatable. Memorializing Resolutions shall, however, be amendable, may be referred to a Standing Committee of the Legislature, or may be withdrawn prior to a vote by the Legislative body.”

Only eight months later,  District 18 Republican Legislator Richard A. Parete along with Legislators Dean Fabiano (District 3: Town of Saugerties, Town of Ulster) and Kenneth J. Ronk  (District 13: Town of Shawangunk) have taken it a step further with a new resolution that would prohibit Memorializing Resolutions altogether.

VIEW Resolution No. 32

Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

Many citizens were present at the regular legislative meeting in February to speak during public comment and to encourage the legislature to reject a ban on memorializing resolutions. Only upon arrival did we learn that earlier in the day, the Ulster County Legislature’s Laws and Rules committee tabled the resolution instead of passing it through to the floor as anticipated.

As reported in the Daily Freeman,  Legislator Richard A. Parete stated that  “The main reason [I pulled it] is because the full Legislature wasn’t there, and I don’t know if it had the votes to pass.”  Parete said he would wait until March when he expects more legislators to be in to introduce the measure.”    VIEW The Daily Freeman Article.

How does this appear to the public?  Not only is a ban on memorializing resolutions undemocratic, but tabling proposed legislation due to not having the votes for it to pass lacks transparency.

Thanks for your support and in following this issue through to the end with us. It is not only important for citizens to speak to the issue but to also be a witness.

 

WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

In February of 2017, District 18 (Town of Hurley, Town of Marbletown) Legislator Richard Parate withdrew Resolution No. 32 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” for the Ulster County Legislature.  

1. LAWS AND RULES.  On Monday, March 13th at 6:30 pm it is anticipated that the UC Legislature Laws and Rules Committee (K.L. Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) will discuss whether or not to pass the resolution out to the floor the following evening.   VIEW Facebook Event.

2. FIRST READING. If approved, the Resolution will have its first reading (though not out loud) on Tuesday, March 14th (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) at the regular legislative session that begins at 7:05pm.  No action can be taken.  VIEW Facebook Event

3.  SECOND READING AND VOTE.  On Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00pm during its regular Legislative session (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building 244 Fair Street, Kingston), it is anticipated that the legislation will have its second reading and folloing, the full body will vote.   VIEW Facebook Event

 

TAKE ACTION.

 1. CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR.  We encourage citizens to contact their Legislator and request that they reject the ban on memorializing resolutions throughout the months of March and April.    VIEW: Ulster County Legislature Website to Find Your Legislator.

2.  DEMOCRAT LEGISLATOR JOHN R. PARETE SAYS HE SUPPORTS A BAN.  Given this is a Republican supported ban, it is important for citizens to know that District 22 Democratic Legislator John R. Parete has announced that he supports the ban, and could be the swing vote on the matter.

If you live in the Towns of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive or Shandaken, please consider calling or emailing your representative directly to discuss his point of view, and to share yours.   (845) 657-8500 or send an email to  jparete@msn.com

3. SIGN OUR PETITION.  Sign our PETITION where your name and any comments that you make go directly to Legislators Richard Parete, Kenneth Ronk, Dean Fabiano and John Parete.

4. PLAN TO ATTEND UPCOMING MEETINGS.  Please consider:  a)  Attend and speak during public comment at the regular Legislative sessions on Tuesday, March 14th (7:05pm) when it is anticipated the legislation will have its first read. No action will be taken and;   b)  Tuesday, April 18th (7:00pm) when it is anticipated that the Resolution will have its second reading and a vote by the legislature.

5. SHARE WITH FRIENDS!  Please share this post with friends to help us to get the word out. Thank you for your support.

REVIEW:  Tell Ulster County Legislature That a Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions is Undemocratic.

Read more…

KingstonCitizens.org Host Eight-Part Educational Forum Series in 2017

By Rebecca Martin

In November of last year, when Donald Trump became our president-elect, most of the world felt as if it had shifted in an unprecedented way.  Whether citizens supported Trump or did not, there was a common feeling of either joyous or defeated disbelief.

It wasn’t long after that a list of Trump’s initiatives appeared for his first 100 days in office.  With the support of a Republican majority in Congress, Trump’s initiatives suddenly seemed plausible. I saw this as an opportunity to look more closely at the checks and balances that exist in local, state and federal government.

We jumped quickly into action, creating a google document (so that citizens could collaborate) that outlines Trump’s initiatives so to better explore their context and, to identify local and New York State policies and laws that could help guide us through this new administration.   We hosted very small meetings with a couple dozen citizens to start this important work and realized shortly after that it needed to continue and be open to more citizen’s input.

VIEW:  “Trump’s Initiatives: Local/State Policy and Laws”

The result is an educational series that will span 2017. Citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Thanks to Peter Wetzler and Julie Hedrick of Church Des Artistes who have donated their beautiful space so that we are comfortable and supported in our efforts each month.

Please review the list of topics, dates, and details below.   We are currently booking more guests and will make those announcements as they are confirmed.  For now, put all of the following dates in your calendar!

We look forward to meeting more of our neighbors, making new connections and becoming more educated on a whole host of complicated topics.

Knowledge is power.

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KingstonCitizens.org presents
Community Educational Forums: An Eight-Part Series
at Church Des Artistes
79 Wurts Street
Historic Rondout section of Kingston, NY
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Over the course of the series in 2017, citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Moderated by KingstonCitizens.org Co-Founder Rebecca Martin.

Participants are encouraged to bring a dessert to share. Coffee and tea provided.  We encourage citizens to bring along their personal computer laptop if they have one. All dates and topics subject to change.

Read more…