Kingston’s Water Board of Commissioners: A New Appointment Starting June 1st, 2015

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By Rebecca Martin

Recently, we acquired the appointments of the current Water Board of Commissioners and learned that one of their terms expires on May 31st, 2015.

Commissioner Al Radel who has served since 2000. A total of 15 years. We would personally like to thank him for his time on the Water Board.

The Mayor appoints members to the commission, and we recommend that the city do a good search well in advance to find a new professional for the Water Board. Environmentalists, Hydrologists, Engineers, Economics.  New blood.

Any city resident can apply. To learn more, please contact Mayor Shayne Gallo at sgallo@kingston-ny.gov with your request.

INVOLVED & INTERESTED AGENCIES in SEQR: Citizens Request a Longer Public Comment Period.

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By Rebecca Martin

KingstonCitizens.org is expecting Niagara Bottling Company to deliver their Scoping Document (in SEQRA) any day now.

For many months, citizens have petitioned the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency for ac longer public comment period (of at least 60 days) with the opportunity to host a public hearing in each impacted municipality (Kingston/Woodstock/Saugerties).  Hundreds of letters were sent to the Town of Ulster Town Board and Supervisor James Quigley.

Lead Agency does not have to honor this request and so far, they have not.

Today, we are asking that all INVOLVED AND INTERESTED AGENCIES in SEQR to please consider submitting a letter to the Town of Ulster Town Board and Supervisor James Quigley requesting the following:

1. To provide a minimum of 60 days for public input during the public portion of the Scoping Process (some organizations might request longer, given their meeting cycle. See City of Kingston Matt Dunn’s request where they ask for 78 days).

2. Because the proposed project is complex and multi-faceted one that has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, we ask that the Town of Ulster Town Board as Lead Agency consider more than one public hearing on the Scoping Document to include locations in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties. Additional time and hearing locations in communities that will be potentially impacted would allow for greater public participation and input on the proposed environmental review laid out in the applicants Draft Scope.

We wish to thank those who have already done so, including SCENIC HUDSON and Matt Dunn, Ward 1 Alderman of the City of Kingston.

 

INVOLVED AGENCIES

Ulster County Department of Health
Ulster County Department of Public Works Highway & Bridges Division
City of Kingston Water Board
US Army Corps of Engineers
NYS DEC
NYS DEP
NYS Department of Health (Water)
Town of Ulster Sewer Deparment
Town of Ulster Water Department
Town of Ulster Highway Department
NYS DOT
Ulster County Industrial Development Agency

INTERESTED AGENCIES

Town of Ulster Planning Board
Ulster County Planning Board
Ulster County Community College
Town of Woodstock, NY
NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
City of Kingston, NY
Town of Saugerties, NY
Village of Saugerties, NY
Town of Esopus, NY
Town of Kingston, NY

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Niagara Bottling States Town of Ulster Site “Worth Fighting For.” Coalition Empowered by Thousands of Voters Prepared to Fight Back. New Petition is Released.

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SIGN THE PETITION

Kingston, NY. – A coalition of organizations and communities from Ulster County and New York State have prepared A NEW PETITION to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Kenneth Adams, President of Empire State Development Corp and Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY NY demanding that the controversial Niagara Bottling Company be denied Start-Up NY tax abatements through the program. The group lists seven reasons why such a decision to make the award at this time could ‘confuse the public and inappropriately influence impartial SEQRA evaluation” in the petition released today that is signed by over a dozen organizations and others.

In an article by Country Wisdom News dated February 1st, 2015, a spokesperson for the Chazen Companies, Niagara’s engineering consultant, is quoted stating:  “Niagara seems to feel this is a good site (Town of Ulster) and one worth fighting for. They cam back and asks us to go ahead and prepare scoping documents. After the town approves those, the public comment can begin. It’s still early in a long process.”

“If the Niagara Bottling Company is awarded public funds or tax abatements, our coalition is currently empowered by thousands of voters – and this number will certainly grow – to fight back.” the rapidly growing Coalition states in its petition.

Aidan Ferris, President of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club agrees that Niagara’s business does not meet Start-Up NY requirements regarding the college mission.  SUNY Ulster students and faculty have voiced opposition recently with a petition requesting that SUNY Ulster “rescind their proposed partnership with Niagara Bottling Company” signed by over 1300 people.

“SUNY Ulster is in the process of revamping the mission statement of our school to include Accountability and Sustainability.  Being responsible to our environment, the community and to each other for the careful use of resources by making data-driven decisions that accomplish the completion of College goals that support the College mission.” Ferris says. “Clearly the Niagara Bottling proposal is in complete contradiction with all the amazing actions our school has taken to lower its impact on the environment. The administration of our school needs to see that in order to be truly sustainable, we need to not only be economically sustainable, but culturally sustainable, and environmentally sustainable too;  it doesn’t appear that the partnership with Niagara would be any of the three”

The proposed Niagara Bottling 414,800 square-foot bottling facility would be a new build adjacent to theTech City campus in the Town of Ulster. It would process up to 1.75 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from the City of Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake located in Woodstock, using over 25% of its capacity, with plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities. The facility will create bottles on site with small plastic PET pellets and dump 342,500 GPD of wastewater into the Esopus Creek that leads to the Hudson River. The Group’s effort is to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, having learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.  A “Positive Declaration” has been determined and a full public scoping process in the State Quality Review (SEQR) process from the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency is now currently underway.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

VIDEO: Water Board Meeting 12/10/14

By Rebecca Martin

We have been a bit backlogged with work, and are just getting the December 10th Water Board meeting up that touches upon important infrastructure work that is upcoming.

Please read:

Water Board Minutes from 12/10/14

Thanks.

Kingston Water Board Meeting:  Part 1

0:10 – 0:21
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved on a motion made by Commissioner Niedzielski and seconded by Commissioner Croswell. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

0:23 – 0:35
Bills in the amount of $39,320.52 dated 11/19/14; $28,500.56 dated 11/26/14; $67,683.25 dated 12/3/14; and $401,459.54 dated 12/10/14 were ordered paid as audited on a motion by Commissioner McSpirit and seconded by Commissioner Croswell. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

0:39 – 2:10
The Board discussed the Cooper Lake Dam Project. Borings are scheduled to begin next week. A 30% design is expected to be completed in March, 2015.

2:19 – 7:12
A motion authorizing the purchase of a new John Deere Backhoe at an approximate cost of $130,000 was made by Commissioner Niedzieski and seconded by Commissioner McSpirit. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

7:14 – 43:02
The 2015 Proposed Budget was discussed by the Board. A motion was made by Commissioner McSpirit and seconded by Commissioner Niedzielski to authorize the transfer of up to $235,000, if necessary, from the Department’s Capital Account to the Department’s Checking Account to be used in the 2015 Operating Budget. Motion carried by unanimous vote. A motion adopting the proposed 2015 Budget as amended was made by Commissioner Croswell and seconded by Commissioner McSpirit. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

43:10 – 57:58
A motion was made by Commissioner McSpirit and seconded by Commissioner Niedzielski to increase the deposit for the 3 inch Hydrant Meter to $5,000 and for the 5/8 inch Hydrant Meter to $1,000. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

 

Kingston Water Board Meeting: Part 2

0:00 – 5:12
The Board discussed the Phase 1B Filter Renovation Project. The Board was informed that the project is on schedule. Project should be done by July.

5:13 – 11:20
The Board discussed the request from Tech City to supply one of its buildings with water from the Town of Ulster. Superintendent Hansen does not think that the Water Department should do it and  will contact Tech City about the request.  

11:26 – 24-37
A motion authorizing a contract with Prowler for Leak Detection at a cost not to exceed $12,000 was made by Commissioner McSpirit and seconded by Commissioner Niedzielski. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

A motion was made by Commissioner Niedzielski and seconded by Commissioner McSpirit authorizing the payment of a meter product shipment later this month after its arrival. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

A motion to move into Executive Session was made by Commissioner Croswell and seconded by Commissioner McSpirit at 4:30 pm. A motion to come out of Executive Session was made by Commissioner Niedzielski and seconded by Commissioner Croswell at 5:52 pm. Motions carried by unanimous vote.

The Superintendent’s Report was approved on a motion by Commissioner Croswell and seconded by Commissioner Niedzielski. Motion carried by unanimous vote.

VIDEO: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting 1/22/15

12:09 – 13:08    Rebecca Martin, Kingston NY
Has the ToU received the draft scoping document from The Chazen Companies and if not,  will the Town Board extend the projected publication date of the draft scoping document by Town Board resolution as protocol based on the SEQR TIMELINE initiated by the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency?

13:20 –  15:38   David Bruner, Kingston NY
“It Could very well be said that this water belongs to God, in whatever form he appears to you.”  VIEW speech text.

15:44 – 16:24     Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Kingston NY
Have you received any other communications from The Chazen Companies or Niagara outside of the draft scoping document?

16:27 – 17:25    Elizabeth Simonson, Lake Hill, NY
Knowing that you anticipated a copy of the draft scoping document today, has anyone from the Town Board or the Supervisor’s (Deputy) office contacted or had direct communication with Chazen about when they can expect to get a copy of the document?

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 1/22/15 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster (ToU) Town Board will meet on Thursday, January 22nd at 7:00pm.

It was REPORTED that the new deadline for the Chazen Companies to submit a draft scoping document for Niagara was to occur on 1/22/15 which is tomorrow. Although at the last ToU Town Board Meeting Supervisor Quigley stated “We have no notice from Chazen of a delivery date of the scoping document” (VIEW the recorded meeting that starts at 30:15) the public anticipates tomorrow as a deadline as there hasn’t been any formal communication otherwise.

The ToU has released tomorrow evenings AGENDA where nothing regarding Niagara is noted. That doesn’t mean that it will not be added sometime tomorrow, and we will keep you updated.

According to the SEQR TIMELINE  that the Town of Ulster posted on their website, it states that the ‘Projected publication date of the draft scoping document‘ was to be December 22nd and that the date “May be extended by Town Board Resolution“.  That did not occur last month.  We are hoping to learn the Board’s course of action tomorrow evening in this regard.

As a reminder, the public may speak at the front of the meeting on matters that are on the agenda, and then allotted time at the end of the meeting to speak on anything else. If Niagara is not on the agenda, be prepared to step up to the podium when Supervisor Quigley invites the public to address the board later in the evening. Their meetings run on time, and are brief – so if you intend to come, place be prompt.

 

WHAT TO REQUEST?   A draft scoping document IS submitted:

1. 60 Day Public Comment Period

Last December, KingstonCitizens.org generated a letter to the Town of Ulster as lead agency requesting a total of 60 days for public input during the public portion of the scoping process. This was due in part to the process start date being December 22nd – January 22nd and in the midst of three major holidays.

As the date was reported to be moved to January 22nd, giving The Chazen Company a total of 60 days to deliver their scoping document.

The public, in turn, wishes for the same courtesy.

In addition, for as long as it takes The Chazen Companies to deliver their draft, the public will request the same amount of time.

 

2. Additional Hearings/Locations to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

Because the proposed project is a complex and multifaceted one that has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, the public should ask the Town of Ulster to consider more than one public hearing on the scoping document to include locations in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties. Additional time and hearing locations in communities that will be potentially impacted would allow for greater public participation and input on the proposed environmental review laid out in the applicant’s draft scope.

FOLLOW:  SEQR Pos Dec Review Timeline on Facebook.

WHAT TO REQUEST?   If a draft scoping document IS NOT submitted:

1. That the Town Board Initiate and Pass a Resolution on Submission of Draft Scoping Document for the Amended SEQR Timeline.

In the SEQR Timeline that the ToU posted on their website, it states that the ‘Projected publication date of the draft scoping document‘ was to be December 22nd and that the date “May be extended by Town Board Resolution“.  The Town Board did not do so to extend the change in December to January. Request that the ToU be transparent and follow their own protocol so that the public has the information that it needs to continue to track this process.

BE PREPARED. 

We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length and to please show respect to municipalities where you are a visitor.

Town of Ulster meetings are generally audio taped, however we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.

 

 

TOWN OF ULSTER
TOWN BOARD

WHAT
Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting

WHEN
Thursday, January 22nd, 2014
7:00pm

WHERE
Town of Ulster Town Hall
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

AGENDA
Click on this LINK 

VIDEO/AUDIO: Kingston Water Board and “The Same Boat”

By Rebecca Martin

VIDEO:

Kingston Water Board Meeting
Wednesday, 1/14/15

:50 – 8:34
Resolution adopting organizational rules of Board of Water Commissioner Meetings
This is essentially  New York State Open Meetings Law.

8:42 – 14:35
Cooper Lake Dam Project

*The Kingston Water Board meeting was longer in length and we will share the remainder of the meeting shortly. Their phase 1B is especially important to hear.

 

AUDIO:

Have a listen to “The Same Boat” hosted by Rachel Marco-Havens. With guests Rebecca Martin and Jennifer Schwartz Berky (KingstonCitizens.org), Kevin Smith (Woodstock Land Conservancy) and Aidan Ferris (SUNY Ulster Environmental Club).

LISTEN

SUSTAIN THE WORK OF OUR WATERSHED: Donate!

 

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By Rebecca Martin

Since September of 2014, KingstonCitizens.org has been at the center of the proposed Niagara Bottling Project. Because of it, our efforts have helped to ‘shed’ light on a number of issues.

As a region, we’ve come to learn the need to be mindful of water – a very limited natural resource. Of aging infrastructure. Transparency and a lack of it.  The use of public funding – and most of all, to illustrate what is possible when citizens come to better understand their role and responsibility here and everywhere.

As we move into a whole new phase of this work, KingstonCitizens.org realizes that what is necessary now is the formation of a WATER COALITION that can be all inclusive and address issues for the long haul around our watershed.

We plan to continue our work as it specifically impacts our community, as KingstonCitizens.org should.

…and so, it is with great enthusiasm that KingstonCitizens.org anticipates the creation of a WATERSHED TASK FORCE by the WOODSTOCK LAND CONSERVANCY charged to identify the work of a future Water Coalition. The group will help to define all aspects of the sustained work and its partners (that will include citizens too) to protect our drinking and ground water and who can eventually develop a comprehensive water policy for our area.

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Please stay tuned as we share task force members and the Woodstock Land Conservancy’s plans. In the near future, we will pass the water work torch over to their capable hands. We couldn’t be more pleased.

Consider making a tax deductible donation to the Woodstock Land Conservancy to provide consultants, legal advice, staff and other items necessary to do this important watershed work.

DONATE  and find ‘Gifts of Honor’. Click on “In Honor of” and then “WATERSHED” in the “First Name” Category.

We look forward to continue to serve our community and the region while we segue. Stay with us.

CITIZEN ALERT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting January 22nd

By Rebecca Martin

The next Town of Ulster Town Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 22nd. The public awaits to learn of the draft scoping document to be delivered by The Chazen Companies regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Project on this evening, or it may once more be delayed.

According to the “Proposed SEQR Schedule” created by the Town of Ulster, a date change to the projected publication date of the Draft Scoping Document (that was originally set to be 12/22, but then reported to be moved to 1/22) “may be extended by Town Board Resolution”.  We therefore expect for the Town Board to communicate with the public regarding the timeline and to address their resolution obligation.

Please plan to attend.

VISIT the meeting Facebook Event for up-to-date agenda information

City of Kingston Shares Final DRAFT Comprehensive Plan Document. Requests Public Input

Click on the image to view the City of Kingston's DRAFT Comprehensive Plan. Public comments are now being accepted!

Click on the image to view the City of Kingston’s DRAFT Comprehensive Plan. Public comments are now being accepted!

By Rebecca Martin

The City of Kingston released the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan the other day and is now asking for public comments.

This process was less to be desired – however the steering committee did a really good job to help improve the original draft created by the consultant tremendously. We are pleased and thankful for  the work that they did, particularly Julie Noble and Kristen Wilson as well as the work of citizens Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Kevin McEvoy.

VIEW the press release and how comments can be submitted

VIEW the DRAFT Comprehensive Plan (Kingston 2025)

A public presentation is scheduled for Thursday, January 29th at 6:30pm. Public comments will be heard that evening, and can be sent in advance to Suzanne Cahill, Planning Director at: scahill@kingston-ny.gov or submitting written comments to Kingston Planning Office, City Hall, 420 Broadway in Kingston.

KingstonCitizens.org has requested a longer public comment period in order to help organize public ‘break-out’ groups to help the public understand the Comp Plan process prior to the public meeting organized by the City of Kingston. Citizens can contact their Common Council Liaison to the Comp Plan Steering Committee Deb Brown (Ward 9) at 845/338-0763 to request more time and guidance too.

READ MORE
A New Draft of the Kingston Comprehensive Plan Effort 2025 Revealed on September 18th.

 

 

 

MAKING HISTORY: City of Kingston first city in New York State to Adopt Resolution to Oppose Pilgrim Pipeline.

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By Iris Marie Bloom

The City of Kingston Common Council unanimously passed a Resolution to Oppose Pilgrim Pipeline. Kingston is now the 8th municipality in the state of New York to take a stand against Pilgrim, joining 22 municipalities in New Jersey.

Councilman Brad Will, who introduced the successful Resolution, said: “This unanimous resolution is consistent with Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Committee’s position. It protects the environment, residents, and business owners, and allows us to move towards a greener economy.” He credited Jen Metzger as the “dynamo” who warned him about Pilgrim. Will provided a map so the Kingston Common Council could see how directly it would threaten Kingston unless is it is stopped.

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Kingston would be in the direct path of Pilgrim Pipeline. The five-mile evacuation radius in case of a pipeline explosion would be unmanageable for Kingston. A resident who lives on the Rondout Creek (me) testified last night that “The beautiful Rondout Creek, vital to the City of Kingston in every way, could be devastated by a drilling mud spill during Pilgrim’s planned horizontal drilling under the creek. An oil spill on the Rondout, such as the one on the Kalamazoo River, would not only destroy the Rondout Creek but cause health problems for residents and hurt the local economy. The Kalamazoo spill has so far cost $2.5B and counting. Residents there suffered respiratory, neurological and other health impacts from the intense fumes from the Kalamazoo spill.”

 

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Making History

Kingston is the first City in the state of New York to oppose Pilgrim, joining the towns of Rosendale and New Paltz, and the Village of New Paltz, which are also in the pipeline’s direct path. RochesterRhinebeck, Woodstock, and Marbletown have passed Supporting Resolutions Opposing Pilgrim Pipeline. The two-state total is now 30, a new milestone!

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 1/8/15 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster Town Board will meet on Thursday, January 8th at 7:00pm.  Although at this time, an agenda has not been posted to their site (we will continue to look for it and update this post when it is up), we expect that the board will have a discussion on the recent change to the SEQR timeline. As you know, it was reported last month that the Chazen Companies, Niagara Bottling’s consultant, had requested an additional 30 days to submit their scoping document. Originally, the delivery was to be December 22nd.   It is expected that the board will confirm the date change to January 22nd.

The public may speak at the front of the meeting on matters that are on the agenda, and then given time at the end of the meeting to speak on anything else.

 

WHAT TO REQUEST?

60 Day Public Comment Period

Last December, KingstonCitizens.org generated a letter to the Town of Ulster as lead agency requesting a total of 60 days for public input during the public portion of the scoping process. This was due in part to the process start date being December 22nd – January 22nd and in the midst of three major holidays.

The date was reported to be moved to January 22nd, giving the Chazen Companies a total of 60 days to deliver their scoping document.

The public, in turn, wishes for the same courtesy.

 

Additional Hearings/Locations to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

Because the proposed project is a complex and multifaceted one that has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, the public should ask the Town of Ulster to consider more than one public hearing on the scoping document to include locations in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties. Additional time and hearing locations in communities that will be potentially impacted would allow for greater public participation and input on the proposed environmental review laid out in the applicant’s draft scope.

FOLLOW:  SEQR Pos Dec Review Timeline

 

BE PREPARED. 

We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length and to please show respect to municipalities where you are a visitor.

Town of Ulster meetings are generally audio taped, however we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.

 

 

 

TOWN OF ULSTER
TOWN BOARD

WHAT
Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting

WHEN
Thursday, January 8th, 2014
7:00pm

WHERE
Town of Ulster Town Hall
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

AGENDA
Click on this LINK (coming soon)

 

KingstonCitizens.org Host Free Screening of TAPPED in the Town of Ulster, NY.

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KingstonCitizens.org host free movie screening of “Tapped” in the Town of Ulster, NY on Thursday, January 15th at 6:00pm “Tapped” examines the bottled water industry and its long-term social, economic and ecological effects 

Kingston, NY – KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Esopus Creek Conservancy is proud to sponsor a free screening of the film “Tapped” at the VFW Post 1386 Men’s Auxillary at 708 E. Chester Street in Kingston, NY on Thursday, January 15th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

Niagara Bottling Company, a national water bottling plant based in California, wants to establish a plant in the Town of Ulster.  It seeks to purchase 1.75 million gallons of water per day from Cooper Lake, Kingston’s municipal water source located in Woodstock, and plans to utilize support from the Start-Up NY Program that gives 10 years of tax abatements to qualifying companies.

Tapped focuses on industry giants PepsiCo and Nestle. The film documents the filmmakers’ visits to a town containing a Nestle factory as well as tests run on the bottles the company uses for its products. These test results showed “several potentially harmful chemicals, some known as carcinogens.” The documentary also focuses on the fraction of bottles that is recycled, noting that “forty percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, and every day we throw away 30 million single-served bottles of water.”

The event is free. NO TICKETS ARE NECESSARY. The public will be met by representatives of KingstonCitizens.org to answer any questions regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project in Ulster County.

If your school or organization would like to host a screening, please contact Rachel Marco-Havens for more information at rachel@kingstoncitizens.org

“Tapped” Film Screening Date and Location:

TOWN OF ULSTER
Thursday, January 15th, 2015
VFW Post 1386 Men’s Auxillary
Time 6:00pm
708 East Chester Street
Kingston, NY 12401

###

About KingstonCitizens.org  KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Woodstock Land Conservancy  The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper   Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Esopus Creek Conservancy  

  • is to conserve significant natural landscapes
  • in the lower Esopus Creek watershed
  • and in the Saugerties area
  • by protecting the rural character of the environment,
  • by conserving and protecting natural habitats,
  • by promoting biodiversity, and
  • by sharing an appreciation of our natural resources with the community through public outreach, education and advocacy.

 

Response to SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt: “…we resolve in this New Year to continue asking our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”

“As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”  – KingstonCitizens.org

On December 29th, 2014  SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt RESPONDED to the hundreds of letters generated by KingstonCitizens.org from concerned citizens regarding the possible acceptance of the Niagara Bottling Company into the Start-Up NY program.

The long awaited ANNOUNCEMENT from Governor Cuomo was issued on that same day with two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster selected. Neither of them were Niagara Bottling Company.  Good work everyone!

However, Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be ON THE TABLE AT A LATER DATE.

We are committed to seeing this through to the very end with you.

Please READ KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Advisor Jennifer Schwartz Berky’s response to President Donald Katt below.

Happy New Year to you all.

– Rebecca Martin

 

kc

Thank you for your LETTER dated December 29, 2014 in response to Kingston Citizens regarding Start-Up New York. We are dedicated to promoting transparency in government through civic engagement and public education. While we are interested in understanding the decisions that led to your support of the Niagara Bottling Company for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, our focus is broader. For the past decade, we have engaged the community and our leaders in meaningful dialogue about governance and community development. We believe that the public has the right and the obligation to understand how decisions are made in the public interest.

In your letter, you suggest that Ulster County citizens and groups are engaged in a ‘robust debate’ regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. However, so much of the information about the proposal has not been made available to the public. While we recognize the importance of confidentiality in certain aspects of business, the basis for decisions in the public interest must be clear. The public cannot engage in an open, fact-based debate where the decision-making criteria and process are not transparent.

As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship. It is in this spirit that we invite you to meet with representatives of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club and Kingston Citizens in the next two weeks to share  information regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal and to engage in – as you called it – “an important and welcome part of that discussion.”

In what follows, I respond to the points in your letter (showing your text in bold italics) with the hope that we can continue a fact-based dialogue in our proposed meeting:

Thank you for copying me on the email you sent to the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Chancellor of the State University of New York. New York has a history of robust debate when it comes to environmental and economic development issues and input from concerned citizens and groups is an important and welcome part of that discussion. […] Reviewing the process and the credentials that were considered in the case of Niagara Bottling, I cannot imagine an outcome other than that which we reached given the defined role that the College performs.

We welcome “robust debate.” Your letter states that you cannot imagine another outcome than the one reached by the College. However, debate and discussion are dependent upon a shared review of all available information. We would like to learn more about the scientific, economic and educational aspects of your decision making process. The Start-Up New York regulations require the college to describe, in its application, how the proposed businesses would generate positive community and economic benefits, including:

 diversification of the local economy,

 environmental sustainability, and

 opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.

These required criteria are not discussed in the proposal. We are concerned about how or whether the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and the other criteria of the Start Up New York program.

I want to clarify the role of SUNY Ulster within the context of the Start-Up NY program with which we, along with many other components of SUNY have chosen to become actively engaged. The steps defined by the SUNY Chancellor’s office are clear and concise and include filing a plan for participation, which we did, being one of the first few in the state to receive approval.

As a part of that defined process, we named a committee to meet with and review proposed projects to determine if the prospective company was eligible to complete a proposal to be forwarded to New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) for consideration. At that point, if recommended, the campus president forwards the project to ESD.

Given the great need for economic development in our area and the importance of environmental sustainability – a responsibility we all bear, but which should be of particular importance to an educational institution that sets an example for its students and community – we ask that you share more information about the decision making process that led to the approval of Niagara Bottling Company’s application to participate in Start Up New York. The environmental ramifications, local, regional and beyond, are important in any enterprise. As such, opening questions for our dialogue with you and the Start-Up New York committee would include:

 What was the analysis that led to your decision to support the Niagara Bottling plant project?

 Was there a cost/benefit analysis as part of your evaluation? What were the results?

 What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?

 As for the jobs and links to the educational mission of SUNY Ulster, what were the criteria used to determine whether these would provide meaningful educational opportunities for the students and link to SUNY Ulster’s mission?

 In addition, did the committee evaluate the proposed wages in connection with the living wage standards in Ulster County?

 What other proposals received by SUNY Ulster (you mention that about 20 businesses applied) and how were they evaluated? Is this evaluation ongoing?

We understand that the Start-Up New York application review process requires the college to provide certification of its notification of and any written responses to the proposal by the municipality or municipalities surrounding the proposed off-campus site, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government.  We appreciate the college’s esteemed tradition in the environmental management field and your awareness of this issue. Therefore, since the source of water from Kingston’s reservoir is in Woodstock, we question why these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and why this documentation was omitted from the 39 PAGE AMENDED PLAN DATED AUGUST 29th, 2014 FROM SUNY ULSTER.

It is now up to other agencies with different clearly defined processes to analyze and make determinations about the viability and value of the project. Being an educator and one with a strong belief in informed decision-making based upon factual information, I look forward to the process unfolding. However, I am not a party to, nor a decision maker within those systems.

As the leader of SUNY Ulster, you are the key participant in this process. Although the final decisions are made in Albany, the Start-Up New York Regulations make you “a party to,” and “a decision maker” for our community. In addition, the PROGRAM REGULATIONS and STATUTE do not exclude SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees from the process. Given the size, complexity, and potentially regional impacts of the Niagara Bottling plant proposal, the planning process that you oversaw is nothing less than a critical step in the decision making process. If the SUNY Ulster President’s Office has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending a project with so many implications for our community, we believe that you have an equal responsibility to help the public understand how and why you assessed the whole of this Niagara project as worthy of funding. Furthermore, as the SUNY Ulster Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the college, we believe that their role, even if voluntary according to Start-Up New York’s guidelines, is crucial in the decision making process. They are important leaders in Ulster County with deep ties in our community.

We have had about 20 inquiries, from a variety of companies. Companies seek us out, we do not recruit companies. To this date we have submitted three applications to ESD for final approval into StartUp. All three are manufacturing-related. I support Start-Up NY, because it is a new program that looks to address the need for jobs in upstate NY. I also support it, because it allows unique learning experiences for students with participating partners. It is my hope that residents of Ulster County understand that I pursued the Niagara/StartUp only for the benefit of our students and the improvement of our local economy.

We do not see economic development and environmental protection as an “either/or” scenario. We believe that there are better alternatives to the Niagara Bottling plant proposal. In our presentation to the SUNY Trustees, we outlined reasons for concern on both fronts. In 2007, Ulster County adopted a sustainable economic development plan, “Ulster Tomorrow,” that identified core competencies that would generate innovative clusters to build our economy. The plan was completed and approved with the help of a renowned economic consultant and input from scores of leaders in every sector in our county, including Trustees and members of the SUNY Ulster community. Although we do not have the details of the two companies that have been approved for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, their business models appear to be more in keeping with the concepts of sustainable development. As you noted, there were about 20 inquiries for the program. We are interested in their proposals and the potential they offer for innovation and clusters that may truly lead to job growth in our area.

A water bottling plant is not a sustainable business. So far, 90 colleges in the United States have officially banned bottled water and your students are now proposing that you make a similar commitment to sustainability in college management and curriculum. Also, as we noted in our presentation, this particular industry does not align with the well-accepted principles of clustering and sustainable development adopted in the County and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (MHREDC) plans. It is an economically isolated activity that will rely on plastics manufacturing, an industry widely acknowledged to generate major pollutants in its extraction, production, and disposal processes. The use of a publically-financed infrastructure and our municipal water supply, a natural resource with finite possibilities, to support further economic development and growth in our area is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” the MHREDC plans, and the Regional “Cleaner, Greener” Sustainability Plan supported by Governor Cuomo. Finally, this proposal is inconsistent with the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which maintains that water and other natural resources belong to the public and it is the government’s obligation to preserve them for public use.

As participants in Ulster County’s diverse, educated workforce, the constituents of Kingston Citizens support SUNY Ulster and its mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.” We respect SUNY Ulster’s tradition of excellence in environmental and economic fields of endeavor. Your mission, including “responsible use of resources,” must be aligned with regional goals that have been defined, collaboratively, with other thought leaders who are likewise committed to define, preserve and develop our assets. Our regional assets are intertwined: our valuable natural resources have a shared and equal impact upon our quality of life as humans and on our potential for future economic development. The goals of benefitting SUNY Ulster students and improving our local economy must live in harmony with our region, its valuable natural and human resources, and its economic future.

We therefore ask you to have an open and productive dialogue with us, the college community, and our leaders in economic development and environmental resource management. Given the potentially imminent decisions regarding Start Up New York, we request you meet with us as soon as possible.

Respectfully,

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
KingstonCitizens.org

Niagara Not Included in Start-Up NY Announcement Today (12/29/14)

The awaited decision from Governor Cuomo was issued today. Two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster were selected, but do not include Niagara Bottling. We are very pleased.

Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be on the table at a later date.

We ask for the public’s continued awareness and participation in 2015.

READ the press release from today 12/29/14