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.

KingstonCitizens.org: Regional Community Accomplishments on the Proposed Niagara Bottling Project

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By Rebecca Martin

Last night was in essence the conclusion of many months of discussion regarding Lead Agency and  the proposed Niagara Bottling project. It has been a deeply intense time period for many hard working people who are dedicated in making this a sound process. Today starts a brand new phase with our collective group of many talented and tenacious citizens, organizations and elected officials.

It’s important that we take a moment to acknowledge and to thank all of those who we have had the good fortune to work and be guided by. In a few short weeks, collectively Riverkeeper, The Woodstock Land Conservancy, the Esopus Creek Conservancy,  Save Cooper Lake, the Kingston Common Council, Town of Woodstock, Food and Water Watch and hundreds of residents of the affected communities have succeeded in placing this proposal under a great deal of public scrutiny.   Thank you.

Much gratitude must also be given to the team that has assembled under the KingstonCitizens.org umbrella.  In essence, it is a dream to see this platform work as it was intended to do and on a most critical issue.  Thank you Kitty McCullough, Debra Bresnan, Karin Wolf, Rachel Marco-Havens and Elizabeth Littleton and Beth Bengston.

To Jennifer Schwartz Berky who is one of Kingston’s treasures. A very generous soul, a dear friend, a true professional and spectacular partner to have.   To my co-chair, Heather Schwegler  who is savvy, smart and keeps us all in good humor.

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Your involvement has made many positive outcomes possible. Some of them include:

~ The City of Kingston Common Council has been incredibly supportive of the public’s request by voting unanimously in favor of three resolutions requesting that the DEC be Lead Agency of the Niagara Proposal and that the CoK be added as Involved Agency in the SEQR process.

~ The early commissioning of the Carpenter Report thanks to the Woodstock Land Conservancy and Riverkeeper has begun to identify and document a sampling of the numerous potential impacts that must be considered as part of the scoping process. (More on this shortly)

~ The Town of Ulster issued a Positive Declaration on the Niagara Proposal. This was not at all a foregone conclusion in September and October.

~ The Town of Ulster determining to require a full public scoping process of the proposed action ensuring that the public and all interested and affected parties, communities and agencies have the opportunity to contribute to the scope of the EIS.   This is not required to do under SEQRA regs, this is a big win for the public and a direct result of the full-court press by the public, grass-roots community groups, elected officials and affiliated organizations.

~ The applicant amending the proposed action once to include a much wider geographic scope and add additional Interested and Involved Agencies including NYC DEP and the Mink Hollow brook and Beaverkill, as well as the Cooper Lake Reservoir and KWD supply and distribution system.

~ NYS DEC pledging to play a proactive role in the SEQRA process.

~ NYS DEC informing the TOU that it must require the applicant to expand the scope of action to include the Whole Action, and avoid Segmentation per SEQRA, with multiple additional items that must be analyzed.

~ NYC DEP adding specific items that the Town of Ulster must require the applicant to address.

Onward!

 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Future of Kingston’s Water Supply Must Not Be Left in the Hands of the Town of Ulster.

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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.  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 affected. … Read more

Recent NY State Water Regulations Not Ready for Prime Time

By David Ganje

In New York state, groundwater rights are based on landownership rights. A property owner can withdraw as much water for use provided the rights of other property owners are not adversely affected. Water systems in the state require Water Supply Permits issued by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) if they have the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day or more of ground or surface water and they do not qualify for an exemption under state regulations.

Read more

ACTION: Request Positive Declaration Determination in SEQR for the Proposed Niagara Bottling Company project.

By Rebecca Martin

ACTIONContact those listed below to alert them that the ACTION in the current Environment Assessment Form (EAF) for SEQR (drafted by Niagara/The Chazen Companies) is too narrow in scope and might jeopardize a positive declaration determination which would allow for a full Environmental Impact Statement  and further public Comment.

Read more

Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley on Initial Reports to Show Fiscal Benefits/Impacts of Niagara, Incremental Infrastructure Costs. “Have we seen anything? No. Because they don’t exist yet.”

By Rebecca Martin

Attached is video from tonight’s Town of Ulster Town Board meeting (11/6/14).  Public comment begins at 29:10 where the board (i.e. Supervisor James Quigley) defensively answers questions regarding the Niagara Bottling Plant proposal. The questions posed include those on infrastructure costs, trailor truck traffic, City of Kingston resolutions, tax implications and a request to learn of any analysis on the fiscal benefits/costs of the Niagara project.  Residents were told that the TOU is awaiting the start of the SEQR process and has done no preliminary research or has any information to share. … Read more

Insightful Letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber

By Rebecca Martin

The attached letter was written by Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber who shares solid arguments as to why the DEC should be Lead Agency in SEQR for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project.  In contrast for me,  it raises more concerns as to Kingston Corporation Council Andy Zweben’s recent letter also to the DEC. Where are his loyalties placed?

Luckily, Kingston’s Common Council are asking the same questions and will vote on a Memoralizing resolution in support of the COK being an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR on Tuesday, November 4th. … Read more

In Solidarity.

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By Rebecca Martin

Over the past four weeks KingstonCitizens.org, which was created almost a decade ago to help to connect Kingston residents to its local government so to encourage transparency and better communication, has become the hub for information for our entire region regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project.

Without a doubt, the project concerns are many. But it is the potential of selling our most precious natural resource – the public’s water to a national bottling company –  that is our most pressing concern.  Sure, many of us would like to eliminate plastic bottles. Some may not be fond of ‘Corporate America’ (as Supervisor Quigley proclaimed last week on-air). But the real problem here….is the concept of selling off the public’s WATER to a national bottling company.  You can’t compare it to beer, to milk, to soda. We are talking about millions and millions of gallons of water each day being drained from our water source.  There isn’t any comparison. … Read more

City of Kingston: Water Supply Permit and Water Supply Applications of 1954 & 1929.

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By Rebecca Martin

Recently, we reached out to the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) to see if we could receive a copy of the most recent Water Supply Permit by the City of Kingston.  They asked that we FOIL (NYS’s Freedom of Information Law) for their records, which we did. … Read more

What I Saw, Did You Know? KingstonCitizens.org Wants To Hear From You.

 

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By Rebecca Martin

Over the past couple of weeks, our readership has grown exponentially given the concern of the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project and the amount of information provided here.

With it, citizens have done an impressive job in learning more (and very quickly I might add)  to craft thoughtful speeches, ask insightful questions and to do it all with a pointed focus, grace and eloquence. … Read more

Kingston Water Board: Members and Term Limits

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By Rebecca Martin

Are you as curious  as I to know who sits on the Kingston Water Board?

Call me old fashioned, but I have a great deal of respect for those who volunteer for boards, councils and commissions in Kingston.

However, this five member board believe that they alone have the authority to decide whether or not Kingston’s water source can be sold to the Niagara Bottling Company. Five people who view themselves as independent of Kingston City Government.  (?)

Joseph DeCicco, President
Al Radel
Robert Niedzielski
Raymond McSpirit
Dennis Croswell
Shayne Gallo, Mayor

In 1895 by a special act of the NYS legislature to provide potable water to the residents of the City of Kingston, it says that the Water Board is a “financially and administratively independent department within the City of Kingston and is governed by the Board of Water Commissioners. The Board is a continuously sitting body and each member is appointed to a five (5) year term by the Mayor. The Mayor is a voting member of the Board.”

A five year term.  I’d like to see how long each member has served. I have a hunch that some of them have been sitting around that table for longer than five years.

What was relevant in 1895 – over 100 years ago – probably isn’t all relevant today.  Back then, in being independent the idea was to keep politics out of water.  How’s that working for us in 2014?

Have a look at the Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley addressing the Water Board after everyone left.  VIEW

Furthermore, to assume that back then it was ever anticipated  that bottling and selling surface and groundwater and shipping it far and wide – or climate change would be in their purview is just plain silly.

Reform is a good thing, folks.

This builds a stronger case of the need to update Kingston’s charter.   I like the idea of exploring new forms of government too while we’re at it, such as City Manager Form of Government where a professional with a background in public administration could be hired.  KingstonCitizens.org recently hosted a public educational meeting on the subject and it was enlightening.

Here’s how I feel about THAT.  But we’ll take this all up again at another time.

For today, it’s important for Kingston citizens to look at every aspect of the proposed Niagara water deal and that includes who this Water Board is.  Their backgrounds and for how long they have served should be made priority.

 

 

Jobs: Urban Agriculture and Niagara Bottling Co.

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By Rebecca Martin

Niagara Bottling Co. wants to come to the area (tax free) to bottle and to sell 1.75 million gallons of Kingston City Water (Cooper Lake) per day. The Water may be tax free too. It is unclear whether or not that to be the case at this time.

The City of Kingston’s Water Department has provided a ‘will share’ letter to the project, but has not yet negotiated a rate (probably because they can’t without the Common Council’s permission).

With an estimated 260 trucks per day coming and going out of the site! That’s a lot of trucks.

According to their proposal, ALL FOR 160 JOBS when the facility is working at full capacity.

LOOK HERE. Based on an Urban Agriculture study that was created specifically for Kingston, the City of Kingston has approximately 800 acres of zoned ‘vacant’ land in Kingston. With just 35 acres working for us inside the city, we would create approximately 156 jobs. Kingston is way ahead of the curve on the Urban Ag front in the Hudson Valley, too.

We can do this, Kingston.

 

READ THE REPORT
ON URBAN AG IN KINGSTON

 

A New Draft of Kingston Comprehensive Plan Effort “2025” Revealed on September 18th at 6:00pm.

By Rebecca Martin

A new draft of the City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan will be revealed at a public meeting scheduled for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th at 6:00pm in Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall.  Kingston News will stream the meeting live and make it available online made possible by KingstonCitizens.org

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

What is a comprehensive plan? According to a Land Use series written by Iowa State University’s University extension, it is:

“A comprehensive plan, also known as a master or general plan, is a collection of information and materials designed to guide the future development of a city or county. Such a plan can provide a community with a firm foundation for policy and action that will allow it to function more efficiently and effectively. It can strengthen communities’ policies and legislation, and it also can promote a more certain future.

Although a comprehensive plan can do all of this and more, many places have outdated plans that serve little function. Some cities have more current plans but fail to rely on them in making development decisions.”

Next to a good consultant, the most critical part in how a Comprehensive Plan is created is through ‘significant public participation.’ 

“The creation of a useful comprehensive plan involves a great deal of research, calculation, and discussion. The development of many of the plan elements requires a high degree of technical knowledge. For this reason, the process is best guided by trained professionals. Even cities with a planning department often hire a consultant to create their comprehensive plan. Either way, the plan should include significant public participation. Numerous public meetings should be arranged and special effort should be made to encourage attendance and disseminate information about the process.

The entire process can take years to complete. Once the plan is finished, the planning commission and the city council should formally approve the document. Although the comprehensive plan does not contain actual laws or regulations, this formal approval will lend strength to future legislation that is based upon the plan. Likewise, future work by any city agency or body should be compared to the comprehensive plan and should be consistent with it.

Finally, it is important to realize that once in place, the comprehensive plan is not an infallible or unchange- able document. Times and conditions change, and some of the forecasts the plan was based on may prove inaccurate. The plan should not be changed out of convenience but can be updated when necessary so that it continues to provide an accurate picture of how the community wishes to progress.”

Kingston 2025

The City of Kingston last created  a citywide master plan in 1961 led by the consultant Raymond & May and that also included the work of a young Daniel Shuster as project planner.

In today’s world, generally a citywide Comprehensive Plan can conservatively costs upwards to $200,000.00 or more with many years of strategic public outreach depending on the size of the community.

In 2010 towards the end of then Mayor James Sottile’s second term,  the City of Kingston’s planning office found an opportunity to bond monies that resulted in $96,000 to undertake a citywide Comprehensive Plan for Kingston. It passed unanimously through city council.

After sending out an RFP (Request for Proposal) the city received around sixteen (16) proposals from consultants all around the area and beyond. After whittling it down to just four (4),  do you know who was selected? Shuster and Associates led by an older Daniel Shuster!  The same consultant that the city hired back in 1961 on the cusp of urban renewal when a great portion of the Rondout was allowed to be torn down.

A Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee was created early in the process and community members selected were either professionals in their field or community members by Alderman-at-Large James Noble and City Planning Director Suzanne Cahill.   Since then, there has been what some consider a very light effort to engage the pubic with a single online survey and public visioning event . Several committee meetings over the years have taken place, also open to the public (though the public was encouraged to attend and listen rather than participate).

A citywide plan is a whole lot to do for $96,000. Luckily (and not surprisingly to all of us watching) the meat of the plan was supplemented by the hard work of dedicated citizens on subjects that encompass: Historic Preservation, Urban Agriculture, Bluestone surveys, Rail Trails, City Parks, Complete Streets, Climate Action Plan, Flooding Task Force and more. Some of which were not funded at all by the City of Kingston. They were gifts to you and me.  You can find all of these studies on the Kingston 2025 webpage.

I believe the initial proposal for the consultant was two years which we are well over by now with the plan not complete and, there is still zoning to do. Currently, a volunteer group has been assembled to take on this enormous and critical task. Who are they and how were they selected? When do they meet?  

Though perhaps unpopular, maybe we should have a conversation with our elected officials about the prospect of leveraging this effort for further funding so to get it right.  After all, what’s another couple of years? We’ve waited this long.

PS – Lets make certain that in the new CP it is required that the city stay current with this document and update it at least every 5 years where necessary. Doing so will not only keep Kingston current, but save taxpayers a great deal of money to not have to orchestrate an overhaul as we are now in the foreseeable future. 

A new draft of the City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan will be revealed at a public meeting scheduled on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th at 6:00pm in Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall. Kingston News will stream the meeting live and make it available later online 

Other relevant articles on KC.org

On a Comprehensive Plan in Kingston

Kingston Times: Mayor or Manager?

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“What the manager doesn’t do – can’t do according to ICMA Ethics Rule – is engage in politics. Strome said that separating politics from day to day city business avoids favoritism – like say when areas represented by the minority party get plowed last after a snowstorm – and creates a stable class of professional city employees who don’t turn over with each new administration.  “Just because somebody worked on somebody’s campaign, somebody might feel like they owe somebody a job,” said Strome. That doesn’t happen in a council- manager system…Ellen Difalco (the Mayor’s personal secretary) said Kingston would be unable to afford a city manager. City Managers, according to the ICMA, make a median salary of about $101,000.”

- An excerpt from “Mayor or Manager” in the Kingston Times this week by Jesse Smith.

But, according to City Administrator of Beacon, NY Meredith Robson during the forum in response to Difalco’s comment reminded the audience this:
(view the VIDEO and listen in at 50:33):

“…There is an expense side of the budget and a revenue side of the budget and you’ve got to look at both sides.  Yes, there might be a salary that you pay that you’re not happy about paying, but what the professional brings into the community may save you so much more…..for example…. I worked with three unions to get an overhaul of our health benefits program estimated in savings of about $300,000 a year….we changed what was comp providers, and saved $125,000 doing that.  After an audit of our electric and telephone bills and got $250,000 back. These are just three quick things….in order to get someone who is really going to do the job you are going to have to pay for it…and what they do for a living and what they will bring to the community I suggest would be well worth it.”