Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency of local government. By providing citizens with timely and factual information, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education, and advocacy.
Want to get involved?
Contact Rebecca Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845/750-7295
A native of Maine, Rebecca Martin lived in New York City for a decade and worked at MTV Networks before starting her own production company and moving upstate to the city of Kingston. In 2006, she co-founded KingstonCitizens.org with Arthur Zackiewicz to understand the inner workings of her new hometown’s local government and to create a platform for citizen engagement. Since then, Martin has organized more than 100 different initiatives and projects, including serving as ‘ground zero’ for information and civic engagement during the Niagara Bottling Company’s attempt to purchase a significant share of Kingston’s municipal water supply. Through KingstonCitizens.org’s unique partnerships, strategic planning, and community organizing, the company withdrew its proposal after five months of public scrutiny. KingstonCitizens.org advocated for a Water Powers Referendum, which amended Kingston’s City Charter and passed by a landslide. This amendment gives the public a layer of protection for how its water is sold outside of Kingston city limits.
Martin previously served as Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust. Under her leadership, the trust was touted as a ‘National Model’ by the Land Trust Alliance for the organization’s work to develop programming that could bring the community closer to its open spaces. Martin was instrumental in starting the non-profit group’s Urban Agriculture initiatives, Kingston’s Rail Trail Committee and programming, and an effort to protect African-American history and burial grounds in the City of Kingston.
She was recognized as “Community Activist of the Year” by the Ulster County YWCA and in 2015 was named “Best Activist in the Hudson Valley” in Hudson Valley Magazine’s annual readers’ poll for “Best People of the Year”.
As a musician, Martin tours the world performing her original music in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. She has nine critically acclaimed recordings, many of which have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and dozens of other influential publications.
Martin has been a resident of the City of Kingston since 2002, and lives with her husband, jazz bassist Larry Grenadier and their son, Charlie James.
KingstonCitizens.org Executive Committee (in alphabetical order)
The executive committee serves to review policy and content of positions and campaigns.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Policy and Planning Advisor
Jennifer has lived in the Hudson Valley for 10 years, where she has worked with numerous communities and organizations to plan and implement projects in historic sites and neighborhoods. Prior to this, she was a cultural heritage specialist and planner at the World Bank, where she was involved with World Heritage sites and cities in over 30 places abroad. Berky was also a design and construction project manager for many historic buildings and cultural institutions in her native New York City. She has Masters’ degrees from Columbia University in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development, a BA in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook, and studied conservation at UNESCO’s ICCROM program in Rome, Italy. Berky is fluent in French, Italian and Spanish.
Debra Bresnan is a writer, editor and communications consultant. Since establishing her business in 1995, she has worked with a broad range of US-based and international clients, from Fortune 500 companies to advocacy-oriented non-profits, small businesses, and feisty start-ups. She joined KingstonCitizens.org as a volunteer in 2014, is a founding member of OurCitizens.org, and also contributes her writing and editing skills to the Communications Committee of the Kingston Midtown Arts District (MAD). Bresnan was appointed to the board of directors of the Kingston Land Trust (KLT) in 2014 and serves on its Communications Committee; in 2017, she was elected to serve as Secretary on the board’s Executive Committee. She is an avid iPhone photographer, publishes feature articles in regional publications, and is working on a book of vignettes and photographs. Bresnan has lived in the Hudson Valley since 1987 and moved to Kingston’s Rondout district in 2012.
Strategic Planning Advisor
Heather Schwegler lives in Ulster County and has worked in the early childhood field since 1999. Her experiences include operating a group family child care; providing professional development trainings; and coaching and rebuilding efforts for child care professionals in NYS. Schwegler currently serves as the president of the Family Child Care Association of New York State (FCCANYS).
Historic Preservation and Arts Advisor
Kathryn McCullough is a longtime champion for the pivotal role the arts and cultural heritage play in building vibrant, prosperous communities. Since moving to the Hudson Valley in 1994, she has served as Director of Manitoga/The Russel Wright Design Center; Development Director for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; Capital & Planned Giving Manager for Scenic Hudson; Interim Director for The Woodstock Guild and Paramount Center for the Arts; and Downtown Manager for MainStreet Hammonton, NJ.
In 2014 she helped to convene a consortium of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, Heritage Area Commission and Friends of Historic Kingston to ensure an appropriate role for historic resources and broad-based economic development planning in Kingston’s new Comprehensive Plan. She was a co-founder of Kingston Midtown Arts District (MAD) and Kingston Preservation Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors of Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance.
Since 2012, McCullough has worked with Kingston’s Office of Economic Development to secure and implement three Certified Local Government grants and two Greenway Awards to help optimize the economic impact of Kingston’s historic resources. She believes the Hudson Valley’s picturesque 19th-century streetscapes, historic buildings, and iconic landmarks are ready-made resources for developing places that attract creative talent. McCullough believes that today’s entrepreneurial startups will cluster in our redeveloped 19th century commercial and industrial corridors if economic development incentives are targeted there rather than to exurban sprawl.