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…

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…

Public Educational Forum “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know” on January 28, 2017

Jon Bowermaster will be in attendance to speak and to show his film “A Pipeline Runs Through It’ to be presented at the beginning of the event.

By Rebecca Martin

KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts” on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway, in Kingston NY from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  Guest panelists include Jeremy Cherson of Riverkeeper, Sue Rosenberg of Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline/CAPP-NY, Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power and a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and Andy Bicking of Scenic Hudson. The short film “Hudson River at Risk 6: A Pipeline Runs Through It” will be presented by Writer, filmmaker and adventurer and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council Jon Bowermaster.

The event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Co-sponsored by Riverkeeper, Citizens for Local Power, Scenic Hudson, CAPP-NY, the Local Economies Project and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Kingston Land Trust, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Earth Guardians NY, Citizen Action NY and Sustainable Hudson Valley. With support from the City of Kingston, the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Rosendale, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Ulster County Legislature and 103rd District Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.

 

VIEW Event on Facebook for up-to-date information on this important local event.

 

Kingston, NY – Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC has proposed to construct two parallel pipelines that would run along the NYS Thruway and through private property—one pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil south from Albany, NY, to a refinery in Linden, NJ, and the other carrying refined products north. The 170+ miles of pipelines, together with nearly 13 miles of lateral pipelines, would impact 31 communities in Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Ulster, Orange, and Rockland counties, as well as 30+ communities in New Jersey. The carrying capacity of each pipeline would be 200,000 barrels (or 8.4 million gallons) per day, which would more than double the number of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude to the Port of Albany at the peak of Bakken crude production in 2014.  The increase in crude-by-rail volume means that the project will also impact many communities north and west of Albany through which the CSX and Canadian Pacific rail lines run.

Read more…

VIDEO: Memorializing Resolution Passes Through Kingston Common Council Opposing Anchorage Proposal.

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By Rebecca Martin

VIEW:  Kingston Common Council’s Memorizing Resolution:  “Resolution 214 of 2016: Resolution of the Common Council of the City of Kingston New York, Approving a Memoralizing Resolution Opposing the Adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule 2016-0132.”

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Tonight, the Kingston Common Council passed a memorializing resolution “opposing the adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule” for the Anchorage project with a vote of 7 – 1 (Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills being the solo ‘no’ vote, stating she had more questions. At this time, she seemed to be supportive of the Shipping Corporations request to create 43 berths in 10 locations, opening up 2400 acres to new anchorages in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the river.  42 of the 43 berths are proposed to be “long term” which means that barges could anchor there for days. This is not as the vessel operators like to say as being “nothing new”.  This would represent a huge increase in the anchoring of commercial vessels in the Hudson between the GW Bridge and Albany, turning our river into a parking lot for large barges and vessels while they wait for dock space to open up in Albany.)  Ward 4 Alderwoman Nina Dawson was absent this evening.

READ:  “Citing navigational safety, Kingston alderwoman won’t oppose Hudson River Anchorages.”  (Daily Freeman)

The U.S.  Coast Guard is taking comments until Dec. 6 on its WEBSITE. With the passing of resolution 214 of 2016, the Kingston Common Council will now be in a position to submit theirs, and join Kingston Mayor Steve Noble who earlier in the year, on August 22, 2016, submitted comments ending with “The City (of Kingston) has spent decades revitalizing its waterfront. Many organizations have worked to clean up the Hudson, to protect its habitats and make it attractive to recreation and tourism. For safety sake, transient vessel berthing is acceptable. Long-term use is not.”

VIEW 26:46 – 29:00:  Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills defend her position in support of the proposed Anchorage project during the Kingston Common Council Caucus on 10/3/16.  It begins at 26:46 and ends at 29:00.  (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)

VIEW 40:46 – 44:09:  The passing of the memorializing resolution video is below. It begins at 40:46 and ends at 44:09.  (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)

Ward 1 Alderwoman Lynn Eckert prior to the vote states that, “We are obligated to protect the public good. There are too many people who rely on a healthy, ecologically sound Hudson River.”

Speaking With One Voice On The Proposed Anchorage Project.

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By Rebecca Martin

** Public comment has been extended to December 6th. Our post reflects this change. 

VIEW: Commercial Shipping Organizations Proposal

It is always great when we have the opportunity to sit down with Riverkeeper’s Kate Hudson who is the Director of Cross Watershed Initiatives there.  Her clarity on all of the issues she is charged with, and in this case the proposed anchorage project on the Hudson River, is a big help to citizens all throughout the Hudson Valley Region.

One of our big take-aways was to come to understand where we are today on the crude oil transport front. Having more anchorages means that empty barges traveling up from NYC can cut their travel time in half to park until a berth opens up in the port of Albany where shipments of crude oil arrive. There is much activity in North Dakota, and crude oil is transported on ‘bomb trains’ to Albany. Shipping companies are waiting (perhaps ‘frothing’ is a better term) to transport it back down the Hudson River to NYC so it can be sent out and processed in NJ and PA. This will become more of a problem for us in the Hudson Valley.

Why?

Last year, “With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama ended 40 years of U.S. crude oil export limits by signing off on a repeal passed by Congress earlier in the day….The restrictions lift immediately under a provision in the spending and tax package that the president signed into law. Congressional leaders earlier in the week reached an agreement to end the trade restrictions, established during U.S. oil shortages in the 1970s, as part of a grand bargain that includes tax breaks for renewable-energy companies and refiners….Repeal of the crude-export restrictions reverses four decades of a policy that has defined the nation’s relations with the rest of the world. Without the trade limits, the U.S. — now the world’s largest oil and gas producer — is free to export its crude, as it already does with refined products including gasoline. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with a vote of 65-33 after the House approved the measure 316-113 hours earlier.”

Read more…

On Process and Transparency: The Proposed Shooting Range in Midtown Kingston.

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Editorial 

Yesterday, we learned that the proposed shooting range proposal slated for Midtown, Kingston was to be placed on the Finance Committee agenda for discussion today (Wednesday, 4/13).   If you are like us, that’s barely enough time to plan to attend for an issue that might be of interest. All of our schedules are thrown to get there within 24 hours. But this is the way our council has outwardly communicated with the public for as long as we can remember, making it very hard for citizens to engage.

At last March’s Public Safety/General Committee meeting, the shooting range proposal was also placed on the agenda. But unlike today, the agenda was never made public which means, citizens couldn’t plan to attend at all.  Dr. Adam Soyer, however, who is proposing the shooting range along with his supporters were in attendance. The discussion therefore, had only the potential of being one-sided.

Read more…

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Why Does Passing The Water Referendum on November 3rd Matter?

Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

As part of our ongoing effort to educate citizens on the upcoming Water Referendum that will appear on the November 3rd  ballot,  we are happy to present this piece, “In their own words” to share insight from residents who live and work inside and out of the City of Kingston.

Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts.  In this case, regarding water, by voting ‘YES’ to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston’s corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.

Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.

Read more…

First Reading of Water Powers Charter Amendment for Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, after many terrific citizen public speakers (see 1:44 – 15:35 in the video above), the Common Council did the first reading (at 44:15 – 45:00) of a charter amendment for Water Powers outside of Kingston’s Corporate boundaries.

Alderman-at-Large James Noble explains (at 15:48 – 16:26)  stating that “the original resolution has been changed to another resolution. #134 is going to be a local law change, because it’s stronger legislation.  This evening we will do the first reading without discussion. Next month, we will do the second reading and vote.”

After which, Mayor Shayne Gallo will have 10 days to organize a public hearing before signing off on the legislation. It would then be prepared and sent to the Board of Election to include on the November ballot.

All summer long, KingstonCitizens.org will focus its energies to inspire and to energize our community to vote like it has never done before.  Which way that you do  is a private matter – but to vote is a right that was hard earned. If this referendum is placed on the ballot – so was it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Please be responsible and do your part and vote.  Place November 3rd (Election Day) on your calendar today.

 REGISTER TO VOTE IN ULSTER COUNTY

UPDATE: Council Caucus “Water Powers” Referendum Discussion Shows Full Council Support. Mayor Gallo Agrees to Sign off on Local Law Amendment for Referendum if Passes.

By Rebecca Martin

At last night’s Common Council Caucus, Council members discussed Resolution #134 to “Amend Charter to Authorize Public Referendum re: Water Powers”. Alderman-at-Large James Noble and Corporation Council Andrew Zweben were in attendance.

It appears to have been determined that the Charter amendment of Water Powers would be a local law change, which would require two readings and a public hearing to be set by the Mayor within 10 days after the first reading. The first reading would take place tomorrow night if the Council votes to approve the referendum.  A public hearing would occur sometime in or around June 12th. The second reading would then be read at the July 7th Common Council meeting with a full council vote to follow to pass (or not) the referendum through to the November ballot.

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On May 28th, the Water Department Board of Commission Chair Joe DeCicco issued a press release cautioning the public to ‘think carefully before you agree to change the governance (of water sales outside the city of Kingston)’   The press release was issued on Kingston Water Department letterhead, that included all the names of the Water Board of Commissioners,  Superintendent Judith Hansen and Mayor Shayne Gallo.

At last evening’s meeting, Corporation Council Andy Zweben clarified that “The press release that was issued by the Water Department was not authorized by the Mayor, or the other members of the Water Department to the best of his knowledge and does not represent how he feels on this issue.”  Andy Zweeben also relayed that speaking to the Mayor today, he stated that “…if the local law is passed, he will sign it.  They’ll be a referendum and the voters will decide.”

Zweeben also expressed his discomfort with “the speed in which the referendum was moving” (* Please see below). But the Public Safety/General Government Committee has been working on this since March of this year where his office has been in attendance. That’s three months of discussion and it being on the Corporation Council’s radar.   Regardless, we appreciate Corporation Council’s efforts here. Whether willingly or not, they provided the council with the information that they needed to move this ahead.

In order now for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, the council will need to pass through the resolution for referendum tomorrow, and a public process as described above must take place. All of which needs to be accomplished by the end of August in order for it to be submitted to the Board of Elections.

* Clarification:   Watching for many months in this case, we have seen the Water Powers change go from a local law change, to a referendum to a combination of the two. As citizens, we depend on the good advice of our elected and appointed officials to understand the proper process. 

We received a communication from Corporation Council Andrew Zweeben who said that we had misrepresented what he said at the last Public Safety/General Government committee meeting (see above and below).  On the subject of the speed of the referendum,  what he was referring to was that it was quick to draft an amended local law in just one week (5 days) which is true and he would have preferred more time to do so.  Given the tight deadline to get this passed and onto the ballot in November, it is the case. We apologize for the misunderstanding. 

 

You can view video from last evening’s meeting:
11:16 – 17:08   Resolution 134
“Amend charter to authorize public referendum re: Water Powers”

Tonight (June 2nd),  the Common Council will vote on whether or not to pass a resolution for a referendum. If it does, the first reading of the proposed amendment will take place for the clock to start ticking.

Citizens are encouraged to speak tonight to support (or not) of a referendum for the November ballot.  Public Comment will begin tonight at 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to secure a seat and to sign-up.  This event will be filmed thanks to Kingston News.

Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

Become a Water Board Commissioner for Kingston’s Water Department.

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By Rebecca Martin

To be considered as a Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:

  1. Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: cwilliams@kingston-ny.gov by April 30th, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
  2. The term is five years.
  3. You must be a city resident or business person.
  4. Please let us know that you have applied by contacting KingstonCitizens.org at Rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

On May 31st 2015, Water Board Commissioner Al Radel’s term will expire. Radel has served as a Commissioner on the Water Board now for 15 years, which is three terms. We appreciate his service.

That means, that a spot is opening up – and we are hoping that citizens who are interested in serving will step up.

The Mayor of Kingston appoints citizens (and business persons) to most Commissions/Boards/Councils in Kingston. Recently, we reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out what the process was. You know how fast we move around here, and after the second request without getting information, we decided to lay out our questions in a PETITION to give the public a chance to weigh in. That petition is live now, so have a look, consider signing it and leave a comment.

The questions were simple.

KingstonCitizens.org requests that Mayor Shayne Gallo require Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen to:

  1. Make both the description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s role and length of term visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
  2. Make all of the current members of the Board of Water Commissioners biographies and length of service to date visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.

Furthermore, that:

  1. The City of Kingston’s Mayor, who appoints Board of Water Commissioners, publish a public notice in a timely fashion announcing its search for new candidates for the upcoming term. This announcement should include a description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s expected role; preferred experience / qualifications for candidates; contact info and deadline for submissions; and the term length.

Yesterday, we heard from Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen who responded:

“The Mayor asked that I contact you to let you know that appointments to the Board of Water Commissioners are made by the Mayor and that if you have anyone that would like to be considered for the position, they should submit their CV to him via the City Clerk’s Office.  Neither the Board nor any employee of the Water Department, including the Superintendent has any role in or input into the selection process.”

Not much in the way of answering our questions. Then later, we heard directly from Mayor Gallo’s office:

“This is in reply to your inquiry about how vacancies and/or appointments are made to the Board of Water Commissioners or any other City board or Commission. Be advised the following process has been used since the City Charter has been adopted: Any interested City resident and/or business person may apply for consideration to any City Board and/or Commission by providing a letter of interest with a resume and background information and/or curriculum vitae of said individual. The interested party should submit the above to the City Clerk’s Office.  Upon receipt, the letter of interest shall will forwarded to my office for review and consideration.   If you know of an interested City resident who would like to be considered for appointment to the Board of Water Commissioners and/or other City boards and commissions, please share the above information with them. Thank you for your interest.”

The points unanswered at least expose something critical.  We have some information on the process, but nothing that we didn’t already know.

So why can’t the City of Kingston provide a description of a Water Board Commissioner? Or nail down their term? Or share their biographies and experience so that we know who is at the helm of our water supply? Or put out a notice in the papers to residents with a deadline for their response?

As we are entering into an election cycle, we will take these things up again at an appropriate time.  We intend to advocate for Kingston to overhaul it’s city charter at a future date.

Until then:

To be considered as a new Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:

  1. Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: cwilliams@kingston-ny.gov by April 3oth, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
  2. The term is five years.
  3. You must be a city resident or business person.
  4. Please let us know that you have applied by contacting KingstonCitizens.org at Rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Response to SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt: “…we resolve in this New Year to continue asking our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”

“As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”  – KingstonCitizens.org

On December 29th, 2014  SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt RESPONDED to the hundreds of letters generated by KingstonCitizens.org from concerned citizens regarding the possible acceptance of the Niagara Bottling Company into the Start-Up NY program.

The long awaited ANNOUNCEMENT from Governor Cuomo was issued on that same day with two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster selected. Neither of them were Niagara Bottling Company.  Good work everyone!

However, Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be ON THE TABLE AT A LATER DATE.

We are committed to seeing this through to the very end with you.

Please READ KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Advisor Jennifer Schwartz Berky’s response to President Donald Katt below.

Happy New Year to you all.

– Rebecca Martin

 

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Thank you for your LETTER dated December 29, 2014 in response to Kingston Citizens regarding Start-Up New York. We are dedicated to promoting transparency in government through civic engagement and public education. While we are interested in understanding the decisions that led to your support of the Niagara Bottling Company for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, our focus is broader. For the past decade, we have engaged the community and our leaders in meaningful dialogue about governance and community development. We believe that the public has the right and the obligation to understand how decisions are made in the public interest.

In your letter, you suggest that Ulster County citizens and groups are engaged in a ‘robust debate’ regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. However, so much of the information about the proposal has not been made available to the public. While we recognize the importance of confidentiality in certain aspects of business, the basis for decisions in the public interest must be clear. The public cannot engage in an open, fact-based debate where the decision-making criteria and process are not transparent.

As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship. It is in this spirit that we invite you to meet with representatives of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club and Kingston Citizens in the next two weeks to share  information regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal and to engage in – as you called it – “an important and welcome part of that discussion.”

In what follows, I respond to the points in your letter (showing your text in bold italics) with the hope that we can continue a fact-based dialogue in our proposed meeting:

Thank you for copying me on the email you sent to the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Chancellor of the State University of New York. New York has a history of robust debate when it comes to environmental and economic development issues and input from concerned citizens and groups is an important and welcome part of that discussion. […] Reviewing the process and the credentials that were considered in the case of Niagara Bottling, I cannot imagine an outcome other than that which we reached given the defined role that the College performs.

We welcome “robust debate.” Your letter states that you cannot imagine another outcome than the one reached by the College. However, debate and discussion are dependent upon a shared review of all available information. We would like to learn more about the scientific, economic and educational aspects of your decision making process. The Start-Up New York regulations require the college to describe, in its application, how the proposed businesses would generate positive community and economic benefits, including:

 diversification of the local economy,

 environmental sustainability, and

 opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.

These required criteria are not discussed in the proposal. We are concerned about how or whether the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and the other criteria of the Start Up New York program.

I want to clarify the role of SUNY Ulster within the context of the Start-Up NY program with which we, along with many other components of SUNY have chosen to become actively engaged. The steps defined by the SUNY Chancellor’s office are clear and concise and include filing a plan for participation, which we did, being one of the first few in the state to receive approval.

As a part of that defined process, we named a committee to meet with and review proposed projects to determine if the prospective company was eligible to complete a proposal to be forwarded to New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) for consideration. At that point, if recommended, the campus president forwards the project to ESD.

Given the great need for economic development in our area and the importance of environmental sustainability – a responsibility we all bear, but which should be of particular importance to an educational institution that sets an example for its students and community – we ask that you share more information about the decision making process that led to the approval of Niagara Bottling Company’s application to participate in Start Up New York. The environmental ramifications, local, regional and beyond, are important in any enterprise. As such, opening questions for our dialogue with you and the Start-Up New York committee would include:

 What was the analysis that led to your decision to support the Niagara Bottling plant project?

 Was there a cost/benefit analysis as part of your evaluation? What were the results?

 What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?

 As for the jobs and links to the educational mission of SUNY Ulster, what were the criteria used to determine whether these would provide meaningful educational opportunities for the students and link to SUNY Ulster’s mission?

 In addition, did the committee evaluate the proposed wages in connection with the living wage standards in Ulster County?

 What other proposals received by SUNY Ulster (you mention that about 20 businesses applied) and how were they evaluated? Is this evaluation ongoing?

We understand that the Start-Up New York application review process requires the college to provide certification of its notification of and any written responses to the proposal by the municipality or municipalities surrounding the proposed off-campus site, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government.  We appreciate the college’s esteemed tradition in the environmental management field and your awareness of this issue. Therefore, since the source of water from Kingston’s reservoir is in Woodstock, we question why these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and why this documentation was omitted from the 39 PAGE AMENDED PLAN DATED AUGUST 29th, 2014 FROM SUNY ULSTER.

It is now up to other agencies with different clearly defined processes to analyze and make determinations about the viability and value of the project. Being an educator and one with a strong belief in informed decision-making based upon factual information, I look forward to the process unfolding. However, I am not a party to, nor a decision maker within those systems.

As the leader of SUNY Ulster, you are the key participant in this process. Although the final decisions are made in Albany, the Start-Up New York Regulations make you “a party to,” and “a decision maker” for our community. In addition, the PROGRAM REGULATIONS and STATUTE do not exclude SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees from the process. Given the size, complexity, and potentially regional impacts of the Niagara Bottling plant proposal, the planning process that you oversaw is nothing less than a critical step in the decision making process. If the SUNY Ulster President’s Office has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending a project with so many implications for our community, we believe that you have an equal responsibility to help the public understand how and why you assessed the whole of this Niagara project as worthy of funding. Furthermore, as the SUNY Ulster Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the college, we believe that their role, even if voluntary according to Start-Up New York’s guidelines, is crucial in the decision making process. They are important leaders in Ulster County with deep ties in our community.

We have had about 20 inquiries, from a variety of companies. Companies seek us out, we do not recruit companies. To this date we have submitted three applications to ESD for final approval into StartUp. All three are manufacturing-related. I support Start-Up NY, because it is a new program that looks to address the need for jobs in upstate NY. I also support it, because it allows unique learning experiences for students with participating partners. It is my hope that residents of Ulster County understand that I pursued the Niagara/StartUp only for the benefit of our students and the improvement of our local economy.

We do not see economic development and environmental protection as an “either/or” scenario. We believe that there are better alternatives to the Niagara Bottling plant proposal. In our presentation to the SUNY Trustees, we outlined reasons for concern on both fronts. In 2007, Ulster County adopted a sustainable economic development plan, “Ulster Tomorrow,” that identified core competencies that would generate innovative clusters to build our economy. The plan was completed and approved with the help of a renowned economic consultant and input from scores of leaders in every sector in our county, including Trustees and members of the SUNY Ulster community. Although we do not have the details of the two companies that have been approved for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, their business models appear to be more in keeping with the concepts of sustainable development. As you noted, there were about 20 inquiries for the program. We are interested in their proposals and the potential they offer for innovation and clusters that may truly lead to job growth in our area.

A water bottling plant is not a sustainable business. So far, 90 colleges in the United States have officially banned bottled water and your students are now proposing that you make a similar commitment to sustainability in college management and curriculum. Also, as we noted in our presentation, this particular industry does not align with the well-accepted principles of clustering and sustainable development adopted in the County and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (MHREDC) plans. It is an economically isolated activity that will rely on plastics manufacturing, an industry widely acknowledged to generate major pollutants in its extraction, production, and disposal processes. The use of a publically-financed infrastructure and our municipal water supply, a natural resource with finite possibilities, to support further economic development and growth in our area is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” the MHREDC plans, and the Regional “Cleaner, Greener” Sustainability Plan supported by Governor Cuomo. Finally, this proposal is inconsistent with the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which maintains that water and other natural resources belong to the public and it is the government’s obligation to preserve them for public use.

As participants in Ulster County’s diverse, educated workforce, the constituents of Kingston Citizens support SUNY Ulster and its mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.” We respect SUNY Ulster’s tradition of excellence in environmental and economic fields of endeavor. Your mission, including “responsible use of resources,” must be aligned with regional goals that have been defined, collaboratively, with other thought leaders who are likewise committed to define, preserve and develop our assets. Our regional assets are intertwined: our valuable natural resources have a shared and equal impact upon our quality of life as humans and on our potential for future economic development. The goals of benefitting SUNY Ulster students and improving our local economy must live in harmony with our region, its valuable natural and human resources, and its economic future.

We therefore ask you to have an open and productive dialogue with us, the college community, and our leaders in economic development and environmental resource management. Given the potentially imminent decisions regarding Start Up New York, we request you meet with us as soon as possible.

Respectfully,

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
KingstonCitizens.org

Stand United To Problem Solve.

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By Rebecca Martin

The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) recent denial of significant incentive funding for the proposed Niagara Bottling facility is now well known. Although we do not know at this time how their decision will impact the outcome of Niagara in the Town of Ulster, we continue on in our effort for a proper, thorough SEQRA process.

CITIZEN REQUEST
Please send this crafted letter (and add text of your own) to request “60 Day Public Comment Period and Additional Hearings to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

IMPORTANT CITIZEN SEQR INFORMATION
SEQR Positive Declaration Review Timeline. Sign-on to be kept up-to-date

 

Start-Up NY and Niagara Water Bottling Facility

The REDC effort foreshadows further actions to come. Our united citizen effort to influence the REDC will no doubt seek the same outcome of tax incentives offered by the Start-Up NY program. There is much more to say about why Niagara Bottling is not a good match for Start-Up NY  which we will get to in much greater detail shortly. 

KingstonCitizens.org as well as the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club (a group populated by SUNY Ulster students) will be presenting to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 16th.  Their petition requesting SUNY Ulster Community College to “rescind their proposed partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company” regarding Start-Up NY will be part of their presentation.

Let us lift the students by boosting the numbers of this important petition.  I’d like to see it over 1000 by the time Tuesday rolls around:

SUNY ULSTER STUDENTS PETITION DONALD KATT, PRES OF SUNY ULSTER
We request SUNY Ulster Community College Rescind Their Proposed Partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company

 

Stand United to Problem Solve 

What is certain at this point is that the political leadership around the County has listened to the concerns of the larger community. It is proof that citizens carry a great deal of influence as we should.

The Niagara proposal had an initial appeal to some of our elected and appointed officials; it would help the Kingston Water Board finance much needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and begin to address a troubled underutilized property in the Town of Ulster that also carries a regional impact. These are not small problems. But the Niagara proposal, with its request to consume over 25% of a finite resource ended up not to be the best solution to them as perhaps reflected by the REDC’s change of heart.

It has been made crystal clear how the public felt about it.

So while we maintain our vigilance, we must also recognize the serious problems that we face that include Kingston’s aging infrastructure. The current water rate structure and it being updated to reflect sustainable (and perhaps more lucrative) measures (currently, the more you use, the less you pay. The less you use the more you pay).  The Kingston Charter being updated.  The health and protection of an important water body and the land that surrounds it. Providing support in ways to utilize the Tech City property for sustainable enterprises.  

It is our aim to stand united to problem solve and to support our elected and appointed officials to do the same.  We have been heard, and for as long as that continues we offer a positive attitude and collaborative approach toward the political leadership that seeks real solutions for the problems affecting the region.

 

READ

Village of Red Hook Receives $3.8 Million Loan for Water Repairs from Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill.

A letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Development Mid-Hudson Region. “We request that the MHREDC NOT award funds to the Niagara Bottling Company on December 10th.

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By Rebecca Martin

READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

In a letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Economic Development Council, a coalition of groups and a municipality that include KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Esopus Creek Conservancy, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeper, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Red Hook, Woodstock NY Transition, Kingston Transition, Sustainable Saugerties and Mid-Hudson Sierra Club alerted Ms. Vargas of their concerns regarding the upcoming December 10th announcement by Governor Cuomo and Niagara Bottling Company.

On August 12th, prior to the public being aware of the proposed project, the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council selected the Niagara Bottling Company endorsed the project as one of their 25 regional priorities for the 2015 funding cycle.  Niagara submitted a CFA (Consolidated Funding Application) – public money  – to help offset the cost of their facility build.

“In response to the proposed Niagara Bottling plant in the Town of Ulster, a growing number of individuals, communities, and organizations in Ulster County and New York State have swiftly come together to form a coalition. Together, the group is dedicated in promoting drinking water as a common good and protecting that right for generations to come.

Niagara wants to build a bottling facility that will process at least 1 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake, using over 25% of its capacity, and plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities.

On December 10th, Governor Cuomo will announce the winners of the 2015 grants from the Consolidated Funding Application process.  In August 2014, Niagara Bottling’s proposal to build a facility in the Town of Ulster was selected as one of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (REDC) “Priority Projects.”

In our efforts to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, we have learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.

The letter outlines the specific concerns related to the REDC’s selection process, including:

  1. The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have not yet taken place. We do not agree that funds should be awarded to a project before we know whether it could be harmful to the environment.

  2. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not meet REDC’s “selection criteria” such as the degree of community support for the project and whether the project supports sustainable development.

  3. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plan for sustainable development in our region.

  4. The economic impacts of 10-year tax exemptions (including local school and property taxes) may well outweigh the benefits of 40 to 120 below industry standard jobs, many of which are typically not offered to area residents.”

 

READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

KingstonCitizens.org Offers Free Screenings of the Documentary TAPPED in December.

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VIEW Kingston “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Woodstock “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Saugerties “Tapped” Facebook Event

 

 

KingstonCitizens.org hosts free movie screenings of “Tapped” in Kingston, Woodstock & Saugerties“Tapped” examines the bottled water industry and its long-term social, economic and ecological effects 

Kingston, NY – KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Esopus Creek Conservancy is proud to sponsor free screenings of the film “Tapped” throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley region. The first of three showings in this ongoing film series will be held in December in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties.

Niagara Bottling Company, a national water bottling plant based in California, wants to establish a plant in the Town of Ulster. It seeks to purchase 1.75 million gallons of water per day from Cooper Lake, Kingston’s municipal water source, and plans to utilize support from the Start-Up NY Program that gives 10 years of tax abatements to qualifying companies.

Tapped focuses on industry giants PepsiCo and Nestle. The film documents the filmmakers’ visits to a town containing a Nestle factory as well as tests run on the bottles the company uses for its products. These test results showed “several potentially harmful chemicals, some known as carcinogens.” The documentary also focuses on the fraction of bottles that is recycled, noting that “forty percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, and every day we throw away 30 million single-served bottles of water.”

All events are free and open to all. NO TICKETS ARE NECESSARY. The public will be met by representatives of KingstonCitizens.org to answer any questions regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project in Ulster County.

KingstonCitizens.org extends a very special thank you to all venue sponsors: BSP (Kingston), The Bearsville Theater (Woodstock) and The Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe (Saugerties).

If your school or organization would like to host a screening, please contact Rachel Marco-Havens for more information at rachel@kingstoncitizens.org

“Tapped” Film Series Screening Dates and Locations:

WOODSTOCK
Sunday, December 7th
12:00pm – 3:00pm
Bearsville Theater
291 Tinker Street, Woodstock NY  12498

(Private Event) Friday, December 12th
10:00am – 11:30am
Woodstock Day School Assembly
1430 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties NY 12477

SAUGERTIES
Friday, December 12th
6:30pm – 8:30pm
The Inquiring Mind Bookstore
65 Partition Street, Saugerties NY  12477

KINGSTON
Sunday, December 14th
3:00pm – 6:00pm
BSP
323 Wall Street, Kingston NY  12401

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About KingstonCitizens.org  KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Woodstock Land Conservancy  The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper   Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Esopus Creek Conservancy  

  • is to conserve significant natural landscapes
  • in the lower Esopus Creek watershed
  • and in the Saugerties area
  • by protecting the rural character of the environment,
  • by conserving and protecting natural habitats,
  • by promoting biodiversity, and
  • by sharing an appreciation of our natural resources with the community through public outreach, education and advocacy.

KingstonCitizens.org Hosts Public Educational Forum “Bottled Water: Bad for People and the Environment” with Food & Water Watch.

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KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on Thursday, December 4th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

Kingston, NY –  In September, the citizens of Kingston became aware of a proposed diversion of up to 1.75 million gallons per day of their municipal water supply to the Town of Ulster. The proposal to sell this water would support the profit-making interests of Niagara Water Bottling Company, a California company that projects in return 100 or so jobs that pay below industry standards. They are also expected to seek the maximum tax exemptions, potentially shifting the burden to residents and local business as part of Start-Up NY and other public funding sources.  Since that time, KingstonCitizens.org has led a concerted effort to understand the details of this proposal that has involved the Kingston community as well as residents in surrounding communities who would also be impacted.

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present a public educational forum titled “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on, Thursday, December 4th 2014 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY.  All are invited to attend.

Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

The evening will be moderated by KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Director Jennifer Schwartz Berky.

This event will be filmed by Clark Richters of Kingston News.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

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About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch
Alex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Planning and Policy Director – KingstonCitizens.org:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the evening’s moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.