Last night’s Hudson Valley Progression Coalition meeting — its first formal event — was a big hit. More than 200 people packed Back Stage Studio Productions to hear remarks from Congressman Mo’ Hinchey as well as green economy insights from Melissa Everett of Sustainable Hudson Valley, Jessica Barry of Prism Solar Technologies and Patrice Courtney-Strong of Mid-Hudson Energy $mart Communities.
Jesse Smith of the Kingston Times wrapped up a series of stories on planning in Kingston with a piece on the revitalization of the Rondout, which traces its roots to a planning document drafted in 1992.
Check out the story here.
From Kevin Quilty of KUBA:
As newly elected President of the Kingston Uptown Business Assn., I have committed myself to securing the necessary funding and establishing the Main Street Manager position to represent the 3 business districts under the recently reconstituted Business Alliance of Kingston (BAC).
Three reps from each of the 3 districts (9 total) currently serve on this board and have been meeting regularly to garner the necessary political strength to make our voices heard to the members of the Common Council and the Mayor. There are Community Development Block Grant Funds available which we hope to use as seed money over a two year period to fill the position, establish hard and fast goals for some measure of success and then make the position self sustaining through assessments of the businesses.
It is an about face for us to finally raise our heads up from our own turf and come together to solve some common issues as a full fledged business group. We would love your support in terms of letters to Common Council members or the Mayor and would be happy to supply you with additional information should you request it. There will be a public hearing at City Hall on March 10 at 6 pm. We will be asking for $50K each for two years to establish this position from CDBG funds which we fully qualify for and then will be on our own.
I welcome any comments/questions from you about this bold initiative. The time has come for us to work as a community to solve our own problems and show the greater business area that we are alive and aware and focusing on building a better business environment for all of us.
Kate Lawson’s photo this week reveals another Kingston treasure:
While walking around Wilbur in search of a potential site for a small piece of the Kingston Victory Garden Project, I got to thinking about the cave that is just around the first curve of Rodney St. It’s been about 100 years since I last saw it. A make-shift fence now blocks the mouth of the cave so I couldn’t go in and wander around.
Instead, I stuck my camera through the mesh fencing and took a couple of shots. It reminds me of what a unique place Kingston is. We have beauty from majestic waterways, rolling hills and mountains, and even a subterranean land few of us know anything about.
— Kate Lawson
The Freeman’s story today about Mayor Jim Sottile’s “credit” on the costs of police overtime for organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will certainly stir some critics as the $1,000 break comes after the Rondout Business Association pulled its parade due to costs.
In the Freeman story, alderman Robert Senor said the move by the mayor was a “slap in the face” to the Rondout businesses.
Debacle aside, what was interesting to learn was that Sottile, Senor and council president James Noble are all members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which are the organizers of the St. Patrick’s parade.
This is a reminder that Kingston is a tightly knit community, with deep immigrant roots. Organizations such as the AoH not only organize parades, but work as a community group on a variety of projects.
The Ulster County chapter’s website has a detailed history page on the organization that says the national AoH is the oldest Catholic lay organization in the country. Read about it here.
The national AoH website has even more information, including an archive and can be seen here.
In the local media circles, we’re running out of shoes.
After several weeklies in the Hudson Valley closed or merged, another shoe dropped as the Daily Freeman reports that the Ulster County Press has shuttered its doors. Anyone concerned about the importance of living in a free, democratic society should be alarmed.
Mark Greene, Emmy-award winning animator, graphic designer and filmmaker, took some time to chat with KingstonCitizens.org on Kingston’s prospects as a tech-friendly city.
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
Arthur: In your opinion, what makes Kingston attractive to digital tech entrepreneurs?
Mark: BROOKLYN ON THE HUDSON
Clearly, digital creative entrepreneurs skew more urban. Kingston offers a much more urban aesthetic than some of the smaller towns around us. That’s why we call it Brooklyn on the Hudson. (Okay you coined that phrase, but I use it a lot.) But compared the New York City, Kingston also offers very very cheap office and living space. Kingston has mixed use buildings and a wide range of housing/home office options.
Here’s in interesting story in The New York Times about a landlord in New York City offering to help out a retail tenant who owes close to $14,000 in back taxes. Why is the landlord helping? Because the retail leasee is a good tenant that draws traffic.
The lesson here is that the recession is causing businesses and property owners to reconsider prior “power dynamics” — which often favored building owners. Flexible arrangements are now a necessity as tough economic times create a more symbiotic relationship between between tenant and landlord.
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
One of the editors of Retail Traffic magazine said he possibly had a story for me to do on mixed used development. Having covered the retail real estate beat for some time, I’m intrigued that this trend is gaining speed again — it backs up what I’ve been reading about elsewhere regarding how people are seeking urban environments.
The large real estate investment trusts (REITs) are taking heavy losses on their large-scale development projects as retailers fail and businesses sink. But there are smaller, more nimble companies who are working on mixed use projects that is in step with a consumer trend of shopping local. Consumers want the old main street back again.
The Kingston Times reports this week that some people are lamenting how cuts to the Empire Zone program will be bad for business, but I say trim the fat away.
The Empire Zone program is a bloated beast that needs to be deflated. It is often misused by elected officials, and does not result in the type of economic development that suits life in this century.
A better way to spend dollars and marketing energy is to engage in “micro-managed economic development.” It’s simple. Here are the steps:
1. Empty your mind of old habits and ways of doing things. Large scale development projects are a thing of the past.
2. Create an inventory of vacant lots, storefronts and commercial properties in your city or town.
3. Encourage redevelopment of these existing properties with a thoughtful, focused marketing campaign to specific business segments that residents would like to see in their neighborhood.
4. As an incentive, offer these small businesses six-month tax breaks for relocating. Award the tax break after two consecutive years of occupancy.
5. Celebrate the success of filling these vacant storefronts with thriving businesses that make voters happy while swelling the tax base, long term, by encouraging other municipalities to follow your example.
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
There is often confusion by some people as to what “sustainability” means. Once, a few years ago, a local politician had asked me to define sustainability.
To be honest, I had a hard time articulating a definition. Environmentalists approach the topic broadly, as it encompasses many aspects of what it means to be a good steward of our natural resources.
When I think of sustainability I think of Melissa Everett and her work at Sustainable Hudson Valley. Her approach is big picture, and involves the much-needed task of mobilizing multiple efforts into a single purpose.
When I think of sustainability I also think of buying local foods, shopping locally and buying local goods and services. I also think of Community Supported Agriculture, local farmers, vineyards, and such.
This past week, though, I think I’ve found a clear, over-arching definition of the word. It is from a statement by Emilie Hauser to the planning board of Kingston in regard to the proposed CVS development on Washington Avenue. This is how she puts it:
“Sustainable communities direct their development for most efficient resource use and high quality of life. Sustainable development meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. There is a huge need for all our towns and lives to be more sustainable. To do everything possible to cut down on green house gases. We must consider in all our decisions, in government, in personal lives, in our work lives, how we can make our communities more sustainable, and how we can mitigate and adapt to climate change. Everything we consider should be viewed from that lens.”
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
Someone once described Kingston to me as the “most divided place” in the Hudson Valley/Catskill region.
I would not say it is the most divided place, but there sure are a lot of spliters here and there.
Most notably is the division of the city into three parts: uptown, midtown and downtown with each section possessing separate “personalities.” To me, this is a good thing. It’s nice to see a place where each neighborhood has its own unique character.
But from an economic development perspective, these three distinct sections tend to work against us.
One way to strengthen the city would be to combine our three business associations. Within an umbrella organization, there could be three committees that focus on the needs of each section of town.
There could be other committees too. Perhaps there’s one that focuses on marketing the city externally. And another committee that focuses on marketing the city internally. Each committee could be task-oriented with specific annual goals.
Just a thought…
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
At the City of Kingston Common Council meeting last night, the aldermen signed off on city vouchers — “general bills.” This included many services and administrative costs such as phone, electric and plumbing bills.
I was a little stunned to see a bill paid to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for $5,210.72. According to the city clerk’s office, the bill was for gifts that were purchased for homeless kids and victims of domestic violence — a noble cause indeed. But why did they have to buy the gifts at Wal-Mart, which is in the Town of Ulster and a company that sends its profits back to Bentonville, Ark.?
In the spirit of “being local” and “buying local” the city should be a good neighbor and patronize local shops and businesses.
For toys, there’s a great toy store on lower Broadway in the Rondout, next to the Kingston Foods & Garden site. There’s also Bop to Tottom in the uptown and the Parent Teacher Store as well. These are local businesses that need our support. Wal-Mart does not.
In all fairness, there are other local businesses that sell goods and services to the city. The general bills from last night included money spent with Binnewater Ice, Herzog’s, Timely Signs, and Speigel Bros. Paper Co.
But the city can do a better job of supporting more local businesses, and it should look more carefully at what it can source from within the city.