Understanding the Latest Changes to the Irish Cultural Center by Hillary Harvey

Come to the public hearing at City Hall, Council Chambers, on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed  Irish Cultural Center (ICC) project.

Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY
Council Chambers (top floor)

Monday, July 10th
6:00 pm
Sign-up to speak at 5:45pm

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have. The email will go directly to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.

Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.



By Hillary Harvey 

The Irish Cultural Center proposed for Abeel Street on the Rondout in Kingston has just come back to the Planning Board with the latest in a series of updates to their project site plan.

ICC Site Plans, March 8, 2017     VIEW
Floor Plans, March 2, 2017      VIEW

Included are responses to the State Historic Preservation Office, the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Ulster County Planning Board, all of which were presented at the June 12th City of Kingston Planning Board meeting.

VIDEO: Planning Board Meeting 6/12/2017   VIEW


What the ICC Looks Like Now.

The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley is proposed to be a 16,213 square foot newly constructed building on a 0.43-acre parcel at 32 Abeel Street with rights, granted by the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to follow the zoning for West Strand Street.  New designs indicate a red, brick building of three stories measuring 49.5′ from the Company Hill Path side (South Elevation), with one story underground on the Abeel Street side (North Elevation).  There would also be an elevator accessible roof garden, with outdoor seating and a 12’ tall room that rises above the height of the building.  On the Company Hill Path side, there would be three full balconies with exterior gathering space that each run the width of the building.  The building would be a “community center” with a 171-seat theater, exhibition space, commercial kitchen, 70-seat pub/restaurant, flex space, offices for the ICC and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (the ICC’s parent organization), radio station, map room, etc.  The project would have 8 on-site parking spots and seek a parking waiver from the Planning Board for 47 parking spaces.

There will be a public hearing on these changes at the City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting on July 10th, during their regular meeting, and comments can be made via email to the Planning Board before July 7th.  We encourage everyone to weigh in.


What still needs to be addressed.

1.  Size and Scale
The Irish Cultural Center cites the D&H Canal Offices as their inspiration, which stood at the top of Company Hill Path before being demolished long ago. Their latest updates show the building to rise 49.5′ from the South Elevation grade, which exceeds the maximum allowable height for a new construction building for the R-T zone by 12.5’ and ½ story.  VIEW

In their December 9th, 2016, comment, the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote, “A visibility study using multiple vantage points along public thoroughfares would illustrate how the building’s scale and massing will impact sightlines.  The West Strand from the waterfront is arguably our most cherished panorama in Kingston.  Any new development affecting this vista must be carefully scrutinized.”  

CONCERN:  These visibility studies were not included in the latest materials submitted, but are needed in order to fully understand how the ICC would appear in relationship to its surrounds. We anticipate the ICC will return to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 13th in City Hall’s Conference Room 1 at 6:30p.


2. Parking and Traffic
While the new inclusion of landscaping for a parking lot on the Abeel Street side of the ICC’s proposed building mimics the driveways on this residential block, this means that the parking capacity for the center has been further reduced.  The new changes increase the parking waiver being requested of the Planning Board to 47 spaces. A comparative study of the YMCA and UPAC, both in Midtown, and BSP (Backstage Productions bar/concert space) in Uptown is provided, none of which relate geographically or functionally to the Rondout Historic District or the proposed ICC. The City of Kingston Planning Board is requiring parking based upon square footage for a community center. The Ulster County Planning Board disagreed with that decision, saying that there is no definition of community center in the zoning, so parking requirements should be based upon uses, which would mean a greater number of spots are needed.

In their response to the UCPB, the ICC argues that they have provided adequate traffic and parking analyses, and state: “It is unreasonable to expect literal compliance with parking requirements for this particular ‘desired’ project…”  VIEW

The Rondout Historic District is a neighborhood hard hit by urban renewal in the 1960s and ‘70s, making it vulnerable and in need of protection. Thus, parking regulations are more particular for new construction in the historic district.  The zoning laws are specifically in place to protect the welfare of residents and should apply equally to everyone in the city. A parking waiver is not a parking solution.

CONCERN:  A professional analysis of shared parking in the Rondout, including known future development and cumulative effect, is needed.


3. Blasting
In their May 24th, 2017, response to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, the ICC wrote, “Geotechnical analysis for the site suggests that excavated rock can be removed using a rock hammer. If by chance blasting would be required, all applicable permits and precautions would be conducted in accordance with the City of Kingston regulations.” VIEW

In their original comments, the Ulster County Planning Board made the following Required Modification: “The planning board should require the applicant to determine if blasting will be required and what alternatives may be available.”

CONCERN:  Nearby historic structures date to the 1800s.  The ICC should be required to conduct further study to determine definitively whether blasting will be part of their construction, prior to any potential site plan approval.


4.  Noise
While noise concerning industrial trash pickup has been mitigated by proposing curbside trash pick-up, with the changes comes the addition of four HVAC units on the roof.  The sound implications of this need to be studied.  Additionally, sound from the three terraces, particularly during high-occupancy events, will be heard over Gallo Park and the Rondout Creek.  Rondout dwellers and visitors know from experience how this direction of noise echoes and reverberates throughout the neighborhood.

CONCERN:  The implications of the rooftop HVAC units and the four proposed outdoor areas for noise disturbance on businesses on West Strand Street and Broadway, as well as on the neighboring family residences, need to be studied.


5.  Company Hill Path

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office are both in support of the ICC’s proposal to remove and replace a bluestone retaining wall that has been damaged by erosion and runoff after the ICC removed all the trees on the property in 2013.

In response to the Ulster County Planning Board’s comment that Company Hill Path would not make a suitable primary entrance for large-scale traffic, the ICC is now proposing to use permeable pavers, accent lighting, and a railing on the portion of the Path leading up to their entrance.  VIEW 

If the City of Kingston were to allow the ICC to make these alterations to this National Historic Register Site, it would leave the majority of the Path undeveloped in this way, and create a non-cohesive look.  The City needs to have a full understanding of the lasting impacts this decision could have for the other properties adjacent to Company Hill Path.  Will those property owners be required to pay for the city to do the same to their part of the Path?  Will property owners adjacent to the Path now be required to maintain the Path?

CONCERN:  The decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to allow the ICC to use Company Hill Path as a sidewalk changed the essential nature of the historic Path, and any further allowances to alter the Path need to fully assess lasting implications.



Come to the public hearing at Kingston City Hall, located at 420 Broadway (Council Chambers), on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed Irish Cultural Center project.

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have, to be delivered to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.  Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

For the complete set of updated documents, VISIT and scroll down to ‘Irish Cultural Center – Abeel Street.’  To research further into the history of the ICC application, VISIT and scroll through the posts.  Read more about Hillary Harvey’s experience with the Irish Cultural Center application VISIT

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, 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.

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…

What’s the Process? New Public Hearing Scheduled for the ICC (Irish Cultural Center)


Last night, the Kingston Planning Board held its regular meeting with many items to discuss, one of which was the ongoing Irish Cultural Center (ICC) being planned in downtown Kingston. In September, citizens anticipated the planning board to make its determination in October for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA),  but it was postponed because the ICC’s proposal scaled down its size (by 4.5%) after what appeared to be the public’s insistence for a project smaller in size and scale, and in pressing for a positive declaration in SEQR.  Later we also learned that it might have been influenced by a recent communication from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in late September.

When speaking to scale, they reported that, “The scale is very large in comparison to surrounding commercial and residential buildings.”  In regard to ‘Massing and Design Features’:  “The rectangular flat roofed façade with full width double height porches, does relate to the historic façade of the D+H Paymaster Building that was located adjacent to this site. Though the scale of the proposed building is much larger.

READ   SHPO’s letter to the Kingston Planning Board dated 9/30/16

No matter. A new draft of plans were presented last evening. The good news is that the ICC is listening. They have removed a proposed banquet facility and commercial kitchen that would eliminate parking by 2 parking spots (from 39 to 37). The proposed theater also decreased in size to 171 seats in total. There is a good description of all of these things in the attached video.

VIEW video from last evening’s meeting.

So what are the next steps in the process for the public? 

A public hearing is imminent, where the public will have the opportunity to view the new draft plan (available in the planning office, and not online) and then provide comments to the planning board for their consideration.  Last night, the client presented its new draft and the planning board announced what appeared to be a decided upon date for a public hearing of November 2nd.

According to the City of Kingston Zoning Code Section 405-30 , it states that #6 “ The Planning Board may hold a public hearing on the site plan if it determines that the matter is of wide public interest. If such a hearing is held, it shall be held within 62 days of the official submission date of the application, and notice shall be given at least five days prior to the date of such hearing by publication in the official City newspaper.”

If we are correct, that means that the planning board has 62 days to orchestrate a public hearing.  In this case based on a November 2nd public hearing, there are only 12 business days to respond and, according to comments made in the video, a final draft plan isn’t yet complete for your review even though the clock is already ticking.

So how does the planning board conclude review time before public comment? What’s their process and in this case, does it provide ample time for all parties involved?  It all seems so arbitrary even if it isn’t.

Finally, in an article released by the Daily Freeman today about the meeting last night, we were disheartened by the headline,  “Irish Cultural Center attorney says opponents of Kingston project are ‘dishonest’“.   After reviewing video from last night, we realized that Mr. Pordy’s comments were not taken out of context. In our 10 years of doing this work,  we can tell you that citizens truly advocating for their community are not dishonest. They deserve respect, and are wading through a maze of new information while trying to understand how city government works. It’s a very steep learning curve, and the majority of citizens that we have had the privilege in getting to know all want nothing more than to support their city’s best interests where they live and do business.   –  RM