Victory Over Proposed Athens Construction and Demolition Waste Facility

Project abandoned but other fights loom for neighbors up and down the Hudson River

Courtesy of Keep It Greene

ATHENS, NY—March 20, 2020  Yesterday, the Division of Materials Management Officer at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) confirmed that Athens Stevedoring and Environmental Development LLC had withdrawn its application for a proposed Construction and Demolition waste processing facility in the Village of Athens and was no longer interested in pursuing the project.

The project had only recently come to light when, in January 2020, Keep It Greene member and Athens resident Diana Abadie made an unnerving discovery. “There’s a spot right on the Hudson River adjoining the boat dock where I often drink my morning coffee,” Diana recalls. “I noticed a for sale sign and when I called, the owner of the property told me that he was selling to a barge and trucking company.”

A series of Freedom of Information Law requests revealed specific plans to import 8,400 tons of Construction & Demolition Debris (C&DD) waste per week that would be stored, processed (i.e. crushed and sorted), and then exported by hundreds of trucks six days a week from a 6.1 acre waterfront site in the Village. Keep It Greene worked with Friends of Athens, KingstonCitizens.org, Hudson Riverkeeper, and the Village of Athens Mayor and Board of Trustees to inform the community and encourage them to organize. After an outpouring of support from the public (an online petition garnered over 2,000 signatures in only two weeks) and support from State Assemblymember Chris Tague (R) and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D), Athens Stevedoring withdrew its application and abandoned the project.

“I am very proud of how our entire community came together to make their voices heard,” said Village of Athens Mayor Stephan Bradicich.  “I have no doubt that the large and unified opposition to this project played a large part in stopping the effort.”

Although the threat to Athens may have passed, the neighboring Town of Catskill is confronting another C&DD project from Peckham Industries: an unlined landfill on the shoreline of the Hudson River that would receive 600,000 tons of waste. Although Peckham’s application to the DEC was recently returned as incomplete, the community anxiously awaits further developments.

According to Geologist David Walker, Ph.D of Keep It Greene, it’s no coincidence that these two similar projects landed in the same vicinity. “Athens and Catskill are just pieces of a larger puzzle. There are idle quarries along the Hudson River awaiting some new purpose, and New York City is the source of an enormous C&DD waste stream (twice the tonnage of its municipal waste). With barging cheaper than trucking to transport tons of materials and the Hudson Valley located closer to New York City than alternative sites, such as Seneca Meadows or Rensselaer, the area has been—and will continue to be—targeted for many more of these projects.”

In the weeks and months ahead, the coalition of environmental and community activists who fought the Athens C&D project plans to reach out to other communities fighting similar battles. “Instead of playing ‘Whack-a-Mole’ as these threats arise, we need to organize and push for proactive, comprehensive C&D waste management,” says Catherine Censor, president of Friends of Athens.

It’s a strategy that Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, endorses. “The system worked here because these communities got the facts and got active. This should give everyone in the Hudson River watershed the confidence to fight misbegotten projects like these in their own communities.”

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About Keep It Greene and Friends of Athens

Keep It Greene: A non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization located in Greene County, NY.

Friends of Athens: A 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation, civic improvement, and beautification of the natural and cultivated landscape in and around the Village of Athens, New York.

The Need for Charter Reform Becomes Obvious and Urgent

Editorial Board

In a surprise February 3 press release, Mayor Steve Noble announced a major proposal to restructure the Departments of Public Works (DPW) and Parks & Recreation, which would greatly expand the current role of the Superintendent of DPW to oversee both departments. The Mayor’s proposal also creates a new Deputy position who would oversee several divisions, including parks maintenance, recreation programming, environmental education programs, along with sanitation. He even had a person ready to provisionally fill this new position immediately: his wife, Julie Noble, who is currently a city environmental education and sustainability coordinator.

Not surprisingly,  his proposal has not been received well. There have been cries of nepotism and ethics charges have been filed. Members of the Common Council, who had little or no warning of this proposal before it was announced to the public, have expressed unusual hesitation. However, there may be a silver lining in this mess.

READ: Kingstoncitizens.org’s “City Government is not a Mayor’s Oyster: The Restructuring of DPW, Parks & Recreation and Nepotism”

Kingston’s city charter in its current form gives the Mayor considerable power. He alone appoints all commissions and boards. He hires and fires officials, not all of whom have the credentials necessary for the particular role. The silver lining? His egregious heavy-handedness has a lot of people talking about the need for charter reform. The Mayor himself has supported charter reform in the past, and at the Common Council’s Laws & Rules Committee on February 19,  he admitted that the charter was outdated and expressed his desire to work in partnership with the Council to update it in a comprehensive manner.   

VIDEO of Laws and Rules Committee meeting on February 19, 2020. 

Why charter reform now?

According to the New York Department of State’s ‘Revising City Charters In New York State’ technical series, a city charter, …is the basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the city government. It is comparable to the State Constitution and to the Constitution of the United States. The charter is, therefore, the most important single law of any city.”

Those who have followed KingstonCitizens.org know that for the last decade, reforming Kingston’s charter has been a major goal of ours.  That’s because in 1993, after many years of hard work by citizens with support from folks like the local Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters, there was a referendum to change Kingston’s form of government to a City Manager form.  It passed overwhelmingly. However, Kingston’s newly elected and popular Mayor, T.R. Gallo (who had also served briefly on the charter commission but stopped showing up some say in protest of the City Manager discussion) was unhappy with the new charter as it would diminish the powers of his office.  Swiftly, Gallo put together his own charter commission only a few months into the new charter’s passage. As Tom Benton describes it in his commentary “How Kingston got its ‘strong mayor’” in the Kingston Times, “As for the proposal itself, it was rather ingeniously constructed by taking the newly adopted charter and merely replacing the words “city manager” with “mayor” throughout. There were some other modifications, of course,  but that was the essence of it. And here was the effect: Under the adopted charter, the city manager was given very broad and powerful executive authority, the governmental check on that authority being control and supervision by the Common Council. Under the new proposal, an elected mayor would have the same broad authority, but would be entirely free from any such control or supervision by the council. Strong mayor, indeed!”   Kingston voters approved a “strong mayor” form of government by a narrow margin.  “…The city manager charter adopted a year earlier was consigned to history without ever having been tried and the era of the strong mayor was ushered in.”      This is the reason why—by design and by accident—Kingston’s executive branch has the power that it has without sufficient checks and balances.  

Charter reform introduced by Kingston Common Council in 2019.

As recently as  June 2019, Ward 9 Councilmember Andrea Shaut—who now serves as the Council President—introduced the subject of charter reform to the Laws & Rules Committee, which she then chaired. It was her desire that there be a collective effort to educate themselves and the community about the value of revising the charter to reflect the current needs of Kingston. 

While it was a welcome first step, her Council colleagues did not see a pressing need for action and the effort did not advance.  We are optimistic that its time has arrived.

READ: KingstonCitizens.org, “Education is Key. Common Council Takes Up Charter Revision Discussion”

Next steps

There are a host of reasons, all simple and sensible, why we have always thought that Kingston should return to a City Manager form of government.  Because it is unconstitutional to require that candidates for Mayor to have certain qualifications to hold the office beyond being a U.S. citizen and above a certain age,  our local government is led by individuals who learn on the job (hopefully) and who can restructure the administration to suit their agenda and biases. With a City Manager or administrator form of government, there are still officials popularly elected to represent the community.  The advantage of having a City Manager is that they have skills and experience specific to government administration. If they do well in their position, they can remain no matter who is elected. The same would be true for any department head.  

As practical-sounding as our opinion may be, it’s only one in a city of 24,000 people. To change the form of government is serious business. It has to be a community-based conversation guided by an unbiased facilitator. The product of this effort would be a revised charter for voters to adopt by referendum.  

We appreciate the Mayor and Council members’ support of charter reform. If they are at all serious about it, then we believe that the Mayor’s proposal to merge departments should be thrown out. An acting Superintendent of Parks & Recreation can be appointed and they can spend the next few months working with the Superintendent of the Department of Public Works to identify any tasks under Parks & Recreation that are better suited for DPW. Together, they can submit a list of recommendations to the Mayor for his consideration. 

It’s been 25 years since our city charter was last examined in a comprehensive manner. It is the responsibility of the community at large to insist that it happens. The time has never been more right.

The Kingston Planning Board Must Require the Kingstonian Applicant to Amend its Environmental Assessment Form to Reflect the Current Project

On Wednesday, November 6th at 6:00pm the Kingston Planning Board will hold a special planning board meeting on the Kingstonian project at City Hall in the Council Chambers.  

There will be an opportunity for the public to speak at the top of the meeting for any planning related topic. In the Planning Board’s agenda, the public is reminded that the Kingstonian is not listed as a public hearing.

This event will be filmed by The Kingston News and is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.  

It is incumbent upon the Planning Board to conduct a thorough State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) on the Kingstonian application. The review must encompass the actual size and scope of the project as currently proposed. 

The Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) Part 1, prepared nearly a year ago in November 2018 by the applicant, describes a project that differs considerably from the project now before the Planning Board. Because the project has grown in scope and scale, the impacts are not accurately calculated in the EAF Part 1. The Planning Board must require the applicant to amend the EAF to reflect the project in its current iteration.

An EAF is “a form used by an agency to assist in determining the environmental significance or nonsignificance of actions. A properly completed EAF must contain enough information to describe the proposed action, its location, its purpose and its potential impacts on the environment.” 6 NYCRR 617.2(m) 

The applicant’s 2018 EAF states that the project will include 129 residential units. The latest announcement by the City touted 143 units. The EAF lists water use, energy use, wastewater output and solid waste output, which were presumably calculated based on the number of residential units. All of those figures must be revised to reflect the impacts of the current project proposal.

Further, the EAF does not accurately account for the new bulk of the project, which is essential to assessing its impacts on the visual environment, historic resources, and community character. The old EAF states that the largest building in the project will be 48 feet tall. The elevations submitted in August 2019 show the project to be six storiesor at least 60 feet tall. The changes announced in October would add an additional story, bringing the total to at least 70 feet (see the image above). 

Accurate statistics about the size and bulk of the building are essential for the Planning Board to determine whether it has the potential to create a significant adverse impact within its architectural context. SEQR regulations specifically call for an assessment of these types of impacts, including: “(iv) the creation of a material conflict with a community’s current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted; (v) the impairment of the character or quality of important historical, archeological, architectural, or aesthetic resources or of existing community or neighborhood character;” 6 NYCRR 617.7(c)(1)(iv-v) (emphasis added).

It has also come to light that the project will require one or more approvals that were not originally projected. In particular, the applicant has applied to the Common Council for a zoning amendment to extend the Mixed Use Overlay District to cover part of the project area. The zoning amendment is not listed among the necessary agency actions on the EAF. 

Failure to account for all components of the project can lead to illegal segmentation of the SEQR review. Failure to account for all impacts of the project risks producing a determination of significance that disables the relevant boards and commissions from addressing certain concerns in their subsequent reviews.

In sum, the lead agency must determine the significance of the proposed action based on a full and properly completed EAF. Given changes in the project and the failure to address the zoning change in the current EAF, the Planning Board does not currently have a full and complete EAF for the project as currently proposed.

KingstonCitizens.org appreciates the developer’s recent inclusion of affordable housing. However, the increased building height in the revised plan only exacerbates the project’s adverse effects on what is an extraordinarily important historic district—for its history, its architecture, and as an economic driver. The State Historic Preservation Office has articulated strong concerns about these impacts. 

It is therefore even more important to complete a thorough and proper SEQR review. Once the EAF is revised to reflect the project in its current iteration, the Board must issue a Positive Declaration so that they can study—along with the community—potential mitigation of the significant adverse environmental impacts.

Additional Reading

READ: “Sign the Petition: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds”

READ: “The Kingstonian to be Jointly Reviewed Tonight; State Preservation Office Finds ‘Adverse Effects’ in its Evaluation of the Project; Confusion about Historic District Boundaries”

READ: “SEQR Process for Kingstonian Project Possibly to be ‘Segmented’”

The Common Council’s Public Hearing on the Mayor’s 2020 Budget: Public Engagement Busy Work

By Hillary Harvey
Guest Editorial

LISTEN to Hillary Harvey on ‘The Source’: “What is the true purpose of the Common Council’s public hearing on the Mayor’s proposed 2020 budget?” (Starts at 52:09)

Standing in Kingston’s City Hall Common Council Chambers on September 24th, John Tuey, the City’s Comptroller, offered the roomful of citizens a general analysis of what a budget is and what it does.  This was the annual community budget forum – an initiative of the Noble Administration.  The City’s Comptroller is appointed by the Common Council but works with the Mayor on developing the budget.  After the forum, it was still unclear what the 2020 proposed budget contained.

Mayor Steve Noble then presented his proposed 2020 budget on October 17th.  The budget was available online the next day.  In his presentation, the Mayor primarily discussed what a budget generally does and offered basically a campaign speech about budgetary achievements of the past.  He outlined to the Common Council in a letter his highlights of the 2020 Recommended Budget: a 0% tax increase; the tax levy remains at about $17.65 million for the fifth year in a row; 0% increase in sewer rates; no layoffs; 12 full-time positions added or expanded including a full-time bilingual Clerk, a full-time Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs, three positions at DPW including a Tree Maintenance Technician; major infrastructure projects to be completed or underway in 2020; and a Low Fiscal Stress Score (6.7 out of 100). In the budget, the Mayor also proposed Wi-Fi in the Kingston parks, essential DPW equipment, a new fire engine, and a skatepark at Hasbrouck Park, among other things.  But the presentation wasn’t a line-by-line read of the 178-page budget document… thankfully.  

The line-by-line read began on October 28th at 6:30p when the Kingston Common Council’s Finance Committee held the first of several public meetings that week to discuss the budget and ask questions of departments such as the Kingston Police Department, the Department of Public Works, the Kingston Fire Department, and the Parks & Rec Department.  But at 6p that night, before those discussions began, the Common Council held a public hearing on the proposed budget.  Not surprisingly, only five people attended.  Of those, only two spoke: the DiFalcos, a political-hopeful power couple.  Ellen DiFalco is running for Mayor on the Republican and Independence Party lines.  Joe DiFalco is running for Ward 3 Alderman on the Republican and Independence Party lines.

The Common Council’s public hearing on the Mayor’s budget proposal was originally scheduled for Thursday, October 24th – the same night as the final Mayoral debate.  It was then rescheduled for Monday, October 28th.  The public notice in the paper was incorrect.  The notification on the City’s website initially didn’t mention what the hearing was on, and the agenda for it was blank.  When I asked the Council members about that, I was told that the hearing was on the budget, as the agenda indicated.  And when I pointed out that the agenda was blank, I was told that was because it was an open public hearing.

Here in Kingston, we have ample opportunity for public engagement busy work: surveys that don’t allow for comments and don’t relate to the topic specifically; participatory workshops and charrettes with facilitators who don’t buy into it and where the public feedback is never seen or discussed again; local committees whose feedback is used to simply justify an outcome that’s been predetermined by top-down leadership; and public hearings which happen before all the information on something is revealed.

How many people really know how to read a budget?

To make a truly informed comment during the Kingston Common Council’s public hearing on the Mayor’s proposed 2020 budget, prior to those more detailed discussions which will continue at the Council’s Finance Committee throughout the month of November, a member of the public would need to be skilled in reading a budget, knowledgeable about previous city budgets, and able to anticipate the future discussions, the Council members’ questions, and the forthcoming answers that will be happening throughout the Council’s public budget review process.  In short, they’re asking the public to achieve an unattainable level of understanding for a layperson and a measure of potentially supernatural foresight.

In my experience following the civic issues of Kingston, I have noticed that the citizens of Kingston have a diversity of experience, knowledge base, and interests which, when they can participate in the public discourse in a meaningful way, result in informed and intelligent discussions which can sometimes be challenging but also offer outside perspectives and considerations that can broaden the understanding of an insular group, like elected officials at City Hall.

Perhaps the public hearing on Monday was meant to get a sense of the concerns and needs of the Council’s constituents.  Something that could be achieved in Ward meetings, and calls for constituents to reach out directly to their alderperson.  

The Council should hold a second public hearing on the budget after their in-depth public discussions, so that they can benefit from the input of a fully informed public.  And if they prefer to hold only one public hearing on the budget, in the future that should happen after the Finance Committee’s discussions of the budget so the public can be as informed about the proposal as the Council itself is.  

A Question

What is the true purpose of the public hearing on the proposed budget?  And if the true purpose of the public hearing on the budget is to hear from an engaged, informed public, then how does the current process support that?  

As it stands, the Council’s public hearing process on the budget is like so many other processes we see in Kingston government: backwards – requiring that the lay citizens of Kingston have an expertise that many of the City officials and staff themselves may not have.  If the Council was seeking to simply check a box that they allowed the public an input period where they could feel heard, then that was achieved on Monday.  But if they’re seeking to actually hear from the public, then the public needs to be at least as informed about the proposal as the Council is itself.  And that will only come after the public discussions in the Finance Committee.  

The Council should reconsider this (perhaps historically so) flawed process and update it to be truly transparent and inclusive of the informed civic engagement that the citizens of Kingston have proven time and again they will participate in.

The Kingston Common Council’s Finance Committee will meet again at City Hall, 420 Broadway, on November 4th at 6:30p to discuss the Kingston Fire Department and Building Safety Budget, on November 6th at 6:30p to discuss the Parks & Rec budget, on November 18th at 6:30p to discuss the City Hall budget, and on November 25th at 6:30p to wrap up budget discussions before the December 3rd vote.

Hillary Harvey is a journalist who hosts, The Source on Radio Kingston, a civic issues show focused on hyper local news and politics to inform civic engagement.  An audio version of this editorial aired on November 1st and is available on the archive at RadioKingston.org (linked above).

VIDEO: New Dual Stream Recycling Procedure in Kingston Begins April 1st.

By Rebecca Martin

The City of Kingston is switching from Single Stream to Dual Stream recycling come April 1st. Julie Noble, the City of Kingston’s Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator,  hosted a recycling educational forum to explain the transition.  Their materials are available both in English and Spanish.

Read more…

PUBLIC HEARING ON THURSDAY 6/14. Request Agency Postpone Vote on Increase in Single-Stream Tipping Fees.

CITIZEN REQUEST.  Please request that the UCRRA board postpone its vote on Resolution No. 2446 that proposes a single-stream recycling fee increase (intended to begin on July 1st) to allow time for discussion, to budget appropriately and consider alternative options.

You can also call your City of Kingston Ulster County Legislator representatives to request that the county reinstate the Recycling Oversight Committee:

City of Kingston District 5, Lynn Eckert 
845/392-3205
lynn.Eckert@co.ulster.ny.us

City of Kingston District 6,  David Donaldson
845/399-8709
dbdonaldso@yahoo.com

City of Kingston District 7, Brian Woltman
845/331-2202
brian.woltman@co.ulster.ny.us

On Thursday, June 14th at 5:00 pm,  the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) will host a public hearing at the Ulster County Legislative Chambers located at 244 Fair Street, 6th floor (VIEW our Facebook Event) on the following resolutions:

Resolution No. 2445 states that UCRRA will no longer accept single-stream recyclables effective at the close of business December 31, 2018.

Resolution No. 2446 authorizes and approves the modification of the 2018 Tipping Fees and other Charges, to take effect July 1, 2018.

The event will be followed by UCRRA’s regular board meeting to vote on the proposed changes less than two weeks from their public hearing on Wednesday, June 27th at 12:00 pm at their offices located at 999 Flatbush Road in Kingston (VIEW our Facebook Event).

According to Resolution No. 2446, “…the Agency hereby approves the modification of the 2018 schedule of the tipping fee and other charges as it relates to single stream recyclables raising the tipping fee for single stream recyclables from $20.00 per ton to an amount set each month by the Executive Director, by calculating the average rate the Agency was charged to remove single stream recyclables in the previous month, plus a $15.00 per ton fee reflecting the Agency’s cost of storing and handling such material….for single stream recyclables will be adjusted the first day of each month commencing July 1, 2018 based on the rate calculated by the Executive Director.

A fluctuating increase in single-stream recycling tipping fees from month to month would make it a real challenge for our community to know what to anticipate. Given Kingston is in the midst of its already adopted 2017/2018 working budget with recycling tipping costs accounted for, how is this change mid-year in the best interest of 24,000 Ulster County residents who will bear the brunt?

“What is the financial impact on the taxpayers of Ulster county?”
– City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble

“We can’t pass laws, there’s no flow control on recycling.  The vast majority doesn’t come to us. The impact on taxpayers, hardly any difference at all.” 
– Timothy Rose,  Executive Director, UCRRA

“Just us.”  
– City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble

From UCRRA’s Informational Meeting, May 2018 VIEW
Mayor Steve Noble’s Quote begins at 34:23

How did we get here?  There is still much that is not understood, such as:

1. During UCRRA’s Informational Meeting last month, board members stated that a change in the Single-Stream market was known in or around October of 2017.  In April, an article in the local paper announced UCRRA’s plans to discontinue single stream by 12/31/18 and to also raise rates to take effect on 7/1 until single-stream would conclude at the end of the year. If the Ulster County Legislature has oversight of UCRRA, at what point were they notified of this change?

2. The Ulster County Legislature has a “Recycling Oversight Committee” that is charged to look at the changes in recycling trends and materials for the county has been inactive having  “…only met a few times over the past decade.” according to Manna Jo Greene .  Without it, how has the legislature used its oversight responsibilities to make any recommendations to UCRRA or impacted communities prior to proposed legislation being drafted?

3. Were there any communication made by UCCRA and the UC Legislature to the City of Kingston regarding these proposed changes prior to April, 2018?

There will be many questions posed during the public hearing on Thursday afternoon. The public deserves time for all parties to respond, discuss and deliberate before changes are made to UCRRA’s single-stream system or rate changes are made.  A postponement of Resolution No. 2446 is a reasonable request.

 

Kingston High School Junior Kira Milgrim Organizes Peers in Support of Resolution on Stricter Gun Laws.

City of Kingston High School Junior Kira Milgrim is taking a stand against gun violence.

“I’ve been involved in the Kingston Democrat Committee since the Election of Trump. I’ve come to love politics, discussion, and the fact that one voice can make a difference when heard by the right people. People coming together to speak about their thoughts and views is the definition of democracy.  But recently our democracy has been challenged by another force. The NRA has time and time again over-ruled common sense in favor of money, and corrupt politicians have followed suit. People don’t feel safe at school, or at events of any sort. Many students at Kingston High School have been eager to take some sort of action.”

Tonight, the Kingston Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee will vote to pass to the floor a memorializing resolution “Calling on State and Federal Elected Officials to Act Now to Eradicate the Use of Firearms in Mass Shootings and Unlawful Acts of Violence”.   Milgrim’s effort will help to engage Kingston youth in civics and in support of stricter gun laws.

“As students who cannot vote, it’s important that we take part in our local government in any way possible – such as attending Laws and Rules committee meetings. It’s such an incredible statement for students to show up at a government event, and let our presence take the place of the votes.  We are excited to stand up for what we believe to be the moral thing to do. We’re tired of feeling anxious in school – that another student could get angry at us one day and replicate the horrors of the school shootings we now hear about on a daily basis.”  says Milgrim. “I’ve finally found something that can give me hope. I feel as though my voice is being heard with this stricter gun law memorializing resolution.”  

The Kingston Common Council Laws and Rule Committee will be held on Wednesday, March 21st at 6:30pm at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway) Conference Room #1, top floor of City Hall.  The memorializing resolution is being proposed by Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress.

VIEW the facebook event.

Kira also enjoys participating in the weekly Kingston of the Democratic Committee meetings where she has volunteered time to work on the committee’s website.

“It’s because of local government, and the adults in this community that are supportive beyond belief that I can go to Democrat breakfasts and meet the congressional candidates and get these awesome opportunities. Every student should have these same oppertunities. Everyone’s voice should be heard. There’s a whole reservoir of thoughts that is constantly being shunned from society; we students have ideas that are never shared because we have struggled to jam our foot in the door and be taken seriously.” says Kira.  “Now that we finally have, the door is flying wide open.”

VIDEO: 2/22/18 Public Scoping Meeting – Proposed Lincoln Park Gas-Fired Power Plant in the Town of Ulster.

By Rebecca Martin

There was a full house on Thursday night of concerned citizens giving testimony to improve the Draft Scope of the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster.

NEXT STEPS:  Please join us during a full day Public Scoping Brainstorming session on Sunday, March 4th from 10am – 5pm at the Senior Center in the Town of Ulster (located at 1 Town Hall Drive in Lake Katrine).     VIEW Facebook Event

Citizens will have the opportunity to work together with experts and draft strong comments of concern for study for the project to submit to the Town Board and applicant before the March 22nd deadline. A full list of experts who will be on hand that day to be announced. 

The TENTATIVE work schedule is (TBA):

10:00 am – 11:30 am
On air quality and noise.

11:30 am – 1:30 pm
On community character, community services and cultural Resources.

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
On vegetation and wildlife

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
On water (surface, ground and wetlands), storm water and waste water.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
On socioeconomic and fiscal (can also include alternatives to the proposal)

Please join us. Food will available all day. This event is open to all citizens, NFP and municipal leaders wanting to contribute.

Sponsored by TownOfUlsterCitizens.org with support from KingstonCitizens.org

 

                                          Video #1:  Click on image to view

 

3:50 – 7:00
Presentation
Chazen and Companies

7:01 – 20:15
PowerPoint Presentation
Peter Rood, GlidePath

 

CITIZEN TESTIMONY

20:30 – 22:54
Sandra Pierson, Ulster Gardens Court
Air quality and seniors with compromised breathing issues.

22:56 – 26:20
Jeffrey Anzevino, Scenic Hudson. VIEW Testimony
Alternative analysis, Visual Analysis, Climate Change and GHG Emissions, Other Air Emissions, Fiscal Impact, Cumulative Impacts, Threatened/Endangered Species, Project Purpose and Energy Benefits, Compliance with Zoning. 

26:30 -29:50
Regis Obijiski, Legde Road 
Safety and Emissions

30:13 – 33:27
Judith Carpova, Kerhonkson
Concerns of project/precedent setting for Ulster County.

33:28 – 35:15
Vicki Luckerini, Ledge Road (@ ground zero)
Zoning laws

35:17 – 38:15
Lowell Thing, Ledge Road
“No additional pollution to my air or anyone elses.”

38:35 – 40:55
Suzanne Thing, Ledge Road
Availability of alternative sites to include alternative sites, not just for proposed project but an all battery alternative. What other sites might be possible? 

41:00 – 43:03
Vince Guido, Old Flatbush Road
Table proposal until NYS has updated battery storage regs.

43:14 – 46:55
Susan Gillespie, President, Citizens for Local Power
Possibility of viable alternative and economic feasibility of project.

48:30 – 51:42
Dan Furman, Riesley Street
Diesel fuel, Emissions, Noise, Odor

51:44 – 55:00
Gloria Waslyn, Main Street, Ruby
Concerned about home value decrease and air quality

55:07- 57:14
Marie Dolores Gill, Fox Run (23 year resident)
Air emissions, climate change, use and conservation of energy

57:31 – END   VIEW  Video of full Testimony
Laura Hartman, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org
Emissions, home values. How can Town Board represent its constituents as Lead Agency?

 

 

                                       Video #2:  Click on image to view

 

00:00 – 4:06     VIEW  Video of full Testimony
Laura Hartman, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org
Emissions, home values. How can Town Board represent its constituents as Lead Agency?

4:33 –  6:15
Fred Neeson, Ledge Road
Economics

6:31 -9:54
Karen Smith-Spanier,  Lakeview Avenue
Potential impacts from EMF (Electro Magnetic Field), Financial impact on home values and accountability to the residents, Town Board to host a meeting to share the financial benefits from GlidePath….since this apparently such a lucrative project, so much so that someone from Chicago is coming to the Town of Ulster to create it, can the Town of Ulster make a renewable project in a different location and profit instead? 

10:03 – 12:15
Brian Cahill, Town of Ulster (35 year resident)
Partial use in sync with Town of Ulster Comprehensive Plan? In the application, it requests being run 24/7 even though it’s a Peaker project. How many days do they plan to really run?

12:37 – 14:10
Sue McConneccy,  Reisley Street
Lights on all night? Concern for nocturnal animals.

14:14 – 15:35 
Valeria Gheorghiu, Attorney in Kerhonkson (office in Kingston)
Cumulative impact analysis, Tax assessments of homes near proposed project, Community Character

15:45 – 17:25
Wayne Spanier, Lakeview Avenue
Why would we want to continue to support fracked gas that would cause harm in other parts of the country when in our state, we have banned fracking? 

17:36 –
Supervisor James Quigley
Closing thoughts
“Laura, for the organization you put into the process here reflects good on the community. The questions were direct on the issues…you’ve made some good points.  What I’m hearing is “You don’t want more carbon. I get it.”

Meeting Adjourned

VIDEO & POWERPOINT: SEQR and the Scoping Process: Lincoln Park Power Plant Project

Click on IMAGE to download powerpoint.

On Friday, February 9th Environmental Advocacy Director Hayley Carlock and Land Use Advocacy Director Jeffrey Anzevino of Scenic Hudson joined close to 50 Town of Ulster residents and two Town Board Members (Morrow and Secreto) to discuss the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center’s SEQRA process and why public participation in developing the scope for the environmental impact statement is important.

“Public involvement reduces the likelihood that unaddressed issues will arise during public review of the draft EIS. From the public’s perspective, scoping is important because it offers an opportunity to ensure the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is as comprehensive as possible to minimize the project’s environmental impact on the community. It also increases the likelihood the project will be consistent with community values.”

Presented by Scenic Hudson. Sponsored by KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Riverkeeper and the Woodstock Land Conservancy.

Thanks to The Kingston News for filming this event, brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

WELCOME TownOfUlsterCitizens.org!

KingstonCitizens.org wishes to welcome our new sister organization TownOfUlsterCitizens.org, a non-partisan, citizen run organization focused on increasing citizen engagement and creating a better Town of Ulster, NY.   VIEW

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

1. Town of Ulster Citizens should attend the next Town Board meeting on Thursday, February 15th and request a longer public comment period (90 days).  VIEW

2. The public and municipal leaders are invited to attend the upcoming educational panel “Battery Storage, Climate, and the Grid: An Educational Forum hosted by Citizens for Local Power” presented by Citizens For Local Power on February 13th.  VIEW 

IMPORTANT DATES

1. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13th at 7pm “Battery Storage, Climate, and the Grid: An Educational Forum hosted by Citizens for Local Power”. VIEW

2. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15th at 7pm:  Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting. Citizens should request for a longer public comment period in the Scoping process.
VIEW  Petition Language

3.  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22nd.   Public Scoping Meeting, Town of Ulster   VIEW

4. THURSDAY, MARCH 22nd.    Deadline for written comments.

IMPORTANT MATERIALS

1. Draft Scope for Lincoln Park Grid Support Center.   VIEW

2. Concept Plan: Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. VIEW

3. Full EIS Part 1. VIEW

4. Full EIS Part 2. VIEW

5. FEAF for the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. VIEW

Read more…

NEXT STEPS: ToU Town Board Make Pos Dec Determination in Lincoln Park Grid Proposal

 

By Rebecca Martin

Last night (2/1), the Town of Ulster (ToU) Town Board added a late entry to their Town Board Workshop Meeting regarding the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant being proposed in the ToU.  As Lead Agency, the Town Board presented and passed a resolution for a Positive Declaration (pos dec) determination in SEQR, as well as proposed a public scoping session on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 7:00pm at Town of Ulster Town Hall.

ToU citizen Laura Hartman attended the meeting last evening with several other concerned citizens. During public comment, Hartman graciously thanked the board for making a positive declaration for the proposal.

“I’d like to ask for 90 days for public input and for items like this to be listed in advance so that the public can have the chance to see (items that are of interest to them) to participate in the meetings” Listen at at 27:28

 

 

 

Our coalition of partners (that includes CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and Woodstock Land Conservancy) has been waiting for a pos dec determination.  In preparation, we created a letter that was ready to submit first thing this morning to Supervisor Quigley and the ToU Town Board requesting a 90 day public comment period with at least two public scoping meetings  given the magnitude of the proposal.

 

TAKE ACTION NOW.

Citizens can help. Please SIGN OUR PETITION and request that the ToUTown Board as Lead Agency allow for a 90-day public comment period with at least two public scoping meetings on the Draft Scope of the Proposed Lincoln Park Grid Project

 

A LITTLE INSIDE BASEBALL. Connecting the dots.

A Positive Declaration is “a determination by the lead agency that an action may result in one or more significant environmental impacts and so will require the preparation of an EIS before agency decisions may be made regarding the action. The positive declaration starts the EIS process.”

A pos dec and public scoping process is a great step for our communities and county.  However, the ToU Town Board has already scheduled a public scoping meeting to occur on February 22nd without releasing the draft scoping document.

Why is that significant?

A draft scope is submitted to the Lead Agency (and in this case, the Town of Ulster) by the applicant  (GlidePath via Chasen & Company, their consultant) to release to the public.  I like to think of a draft scope document as a ‘table of contents’.  Typically, a 30 day window occurs for the public to review the document so to be sure that all items of concern for study are included.  There is no one better to do this work than the citizens who live within proximity to the project with the support of the environmental advocates who have dedicated their life’s work to the protection of the area.

All of these items end up in the scoping document and will require the applicant to pay for consultants to do the required studies. This will be a costly process for GlidePath. Given the public’s disdain for  the proposal, it will be interesting to see how far they go as a true indication of it’s profitability.

Speaking of which, while a project is undergoing the SEQR process, it cannot apply for any applicable tax incentives or grants. So that is an entirely other item that citizens will want to pay close attention to as we proceed

The ToU Town Board has already set the public scoping meeting to be 2/22 according to their agenda item without the release of the draft scope. This is problematic and indicates that they intend to release it sometime between now and the 22nd, banking on a 30 day window. This would leave the public with limited time to review and ask questions for a proposal of great magnitude.  As far as I know, this is the first peaker gas plant being proposed in Ulster County. The project plans to re-connect new gas infrastructure at a time that citizens living in Ulster County and New York State have expressed their intention to segue from fossil fuels to renewables. A natural gas peaker power plant created by a company from the Midwest most certainly doesn’t do that.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

DAILY FREEMAN:  Ulster Town Board Members Declare Proposed Electric Generating Plant May Harm Environment.

KINGSTON TIMES:  Ulster Power Plant People Get an Earful at Forum.

VIDEO: Town of Ulster Citizens Tell Elected Officials and GlidePath “We don’t want this project”

How City of Kingston Citizens Can Make an Impact On a Board, Committee or Commission

CALL TO ACTION:  Can we encourage 20 new Kingston citizens to submit an application to serve on a topic that interests them? We think we can.

Would you like to make an impact on government in the City of Kingston?

As many of you know, one of the most important aspects of our work at KingstonCitizens.org is to point citizens in the direction of process and the law when there is an issue of concern so that their effort can make a real difference.

Perhaps one of the greatest ways for the public to get involved which is not well known is to submit an application VIEW to be appointed to sit on one of the twenty-five boards, commissions or committees that exists and that is reliant on citizen volunteer’s in the City of Kingston.

In 2016,  Mayor Steve Noble launched a brand new initiative hoping to “Attract and recruit volunteers for Kingston’s Boards, Commissions, and Committees“.

“All individuals interested in serving on a board, commission and/or committee must complete an application and submit it to the Mayor’s office for review. This information will be used in determining which individuals are best suited to serve, based on their qualifications, backgrounds, skills, and interests.”

Some of these important bodies have very long terms, so when a spot comes up – it’s important to know. Get in there! Kingston relies on the talent in its neighborhoods to help to define itself going forward.

Read more…

The City of Kingston’s Community Forums on Parking

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

In conversations around the City of Kingston, parking is a hot topic.

Uptown, there was a debate around Mayor Steve Noble’s plan to increase parking costs and add meters to municipal lots where there previously had been none, with business owners countering the plan by advocating for free parking. Meter increases went into effect just recently, and parking kiosks are already showing up near their intended municipal lot.  In an effort to compromise, the city is also offering parking permits for frequent users of the City of Kingston’s municipal lots. Purchase a parking permit in advance of the installation and activation of new payment stations in six of the City’s municipal lots costs $10, and the permit is valid through December 31, 2017.    VIEW

In Midtown, there’s ample parking, according to the city’s consultant for the Comprehensive Plan Zoning subcommittee.  And the conversation has pretty much ended there.

Read more…

(Amended) GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY

Item #3: #245 Washington Avenue SPECIAL PERMIT to install a gas regulating station. SBL 56.90-6-20. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 3. Central Hudson Gas & Electric; Applicant/owner

Recently, a citizen of the City of Kingston who lives near a new proposed Gas Regulating System to be located at 245 Washington Avenue by Central Hudson contacted us with some concerns.  Gas and Electric Magnetic Field (EMF) Substations are a part of our landscape in Kingston, given the need for gas and electric in our daily lives.

But process is key, and it was the process that peeked our interest.

Read more…

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

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

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

VIEW Resolution No. 32

Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

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

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

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

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

 

WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

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

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

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

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

 

TAKE ACTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more…

The Hijacking of a City of Kingston Social Media Site?

A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook
A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook

In 2015, the city of Kingston initiated the Hudson Riverport, a project that had “engaged the services of the firm Perkins+Will to produce an Implementation Plan, a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) and a Market Conditions Update for 192 acres of Kingston’s Rondout Waterfront under the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program of the NYS Department of State….The Common Council determined by resolution on October 6, 2015 that the Implementation Plan/Draft GEIS was complete and ready for public review and set a public hearing date. The comment period spanned October 8th through November 23rd with a public hearing on November 12th in Kingston City Hall Common Council Chambers.”  

On October 11, 2015 in the Daily Freeman, an article “Kingston Seeks Public Input on Brownfield Plan” was printed/posted announcing the city initiative as well as the City of Kingston’s Hudson Riverport Facebook page that apparently had been created in 2014.

Just about a year later on October 10, 2016, we happened to notice language in a post on the City of Kingston Hudson Riverport Facebook page that appeared odd.   To a recent article in the Daily Freeman, “Kingston Council Advances Downtown Flood Control Effort” it said in part that, “…The current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written. All they had to do was get the design work started and resubmit the request for construction funds…”

That didn’t sound to us like the current office of Economic Development speaking.  It is a fact that the “Hudson Riverport at Kingston” is a Facebook page created, owned and operated by the city of Kingston. So why would it suggest that  “the current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written…” for a project that it continues to organize and maintain?

Curious, we looked at the ABOUT section of Hudson Riverport of Kingston NY page, and there wasn’t a description or any details connecting the page to the City of Kingston initiative for which the social media site was created for when it was set-up.   (VIEW: Hudson Riverport ABOUT section).

Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that the page continues to be administered by a past City of Kingston employee without having permission to do so, or without any guidance from the current Economic Development or Grants Management office. After looking around a bit more, there is at least one other just like it. An inventory of these sites needs to be collected.

The good news is that the City of Kingston is currently looking into the matter and will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation.  Apparently, in the past a city employee could create a Facebook page on their own, without there being a secondary employee to be included as an administrator.  That has now been implemented. However, for sites created prior to 2016,  if a person who worked for the city being the sole adminstrator decides to act maliciously,  they might take the entire site down where information meant for the public record that was posted over the years would be lost. Lets hope that that doesn’t happen in this case.

Perhaps the good news here, in an instance like this and if it ends up being what we suspect, will expose areas from past city management that must be improved.

There is no doubt that successful projects is the work of many.  It indeed takes a village (or a city in this case).  But for City of Kingston property to be used without authority or direction is inappropriate and completely misleading to the public. Aren’t city of Kingston staff and our elected and appointed officials from both the past and present days to be working on behalf of the public good?  City property is the public’s property. When you are no longer employed, elected or appointed, hand over important information in good working order so that the city can continue to run smoothly during each of its transitions. It is each of their duties to do so.

ADDITIONAL READING:

READ:   Daily Freeman Article, requesting comments on Riverport be sent to city-owned email address.

READ:   Pages 9-10 of Ec. Dev. Brochure, documenting the project.

READ:  Daily Freeman article about the public hearing process for the plan.