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Complaints from Residents, Students Result in Head to Toe Closure

The Head to Toe shop at 344 Broadway remained closed for a second day after City of Kingston Police raided the site, made an arrest and seized weapons and other items.

The Kingston Daily Freeman reported that students had complained about the shop, that it was selling drug paraphernalia and cigarettes to high schoolers — which are against state and city laws.

Earlier this week, residents of Ward 9 had complained to the store manager and owner about weapons that were on display. They said the items would be removed.

On Tuesday, the police made their raid, which ended up closing the shop.

Less Divided

Someone once described Kingston to me as the “most divided place” in the Hudson Valley/Catskill region.

I would not say it is the most divided place, but there sure are a lot of spliters here and there.

Most notably is the division of the city into three parts: uptown, midtown and downtown with each section possessing separate “personalities.” To me, this is a good thing. It’s nice to see a place where each neighborhood has its own unique character.

But from an economic development perspective, these three distinct sections tend to work against us.

One way to strengthen the city would be to combine our three business associations. Within an umbrella organization, there could be three committees that focus on the needs of each section of town.

There could be other committees too. Perhaps there’s one that focuses on marketing the city externally. And another committee that focuses on marketing the city internally. Each committee could be task-oriented with specific annual goals.

Just a thought…

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

In Need of a Plan

At the City of Kingston Planning Board meeting tonight, which included public input over design guidelines for the proposed CVS on Washingston Avenue, several residents urged the board to carefully consider the historic attributes of the city in designing the building.

There were also concerns about the need for another drug store in the city. Isn’t four enough?

Tom Hoffay, alderman, said he was concerned that the site plan included a curb cut that would allow cars heading south on Washington Avenue to make a left-hand turn — across three lanes of oncoming traffic — into the proposed CVS lot. That’s not safe, Tom said.

All of these concerns are valid, and the developers of the site should listen carefully. After all, the residents of the city are the ones who have to live with this for years to come after it is built.

From my perspective, the proposed CVS is just another clear example of why Kingston needs a comprehensive plan.

Like others who attended the meeting, I’m not against development. I’m for smart development, projects that are environmentally sound (think low-carbon footprint or better yet, zero-net energy), support local businesses, bolster the tax base and differentiate the area from other towns and cities.

A comprehensive plan can guide smart development and would act as a blueprint for Kingston’s future. A CP could have clear design guidelines that help maintain the historic aspects of the city. The CP could include development guidelines that encourage mixed use buildings. The CP could set guidelines for our historic districts, waterfront (expanding the recently completed waterfront plan) and gateway areas.

For their part, several city officials — especially city planner Suzanne Cahill — understand the need for a comprehensive plan. Perhaps with strong public support, steps can be made to create one.

As far as funding is concerned, I think there are grants out there that Kingston can tap. That can help us get started.

If you are interested in pursuing this idea, let me know. Let’s do it. Let’s do something. A CP that has not been updated in nearly 50 years is an embarrassment.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

RAC and Roll

The Resident Advisory Committee had its first meeting yesterday at the Muddy Cup. There was a great turnout as we discussed the progress being made in the lower Ward 9 area, particularly in regard to the high school, parking and disruptions caused by parades.

We’re in the process of developing some creative ways to educate high schoolers and children in the neighborhood to respect our property and each other, among other things. As this unfolds, the RAC will keep everyone informed about our progress.

It was also suggested that a block party would help foster better “neighborhoodship” — so the RAC is exploring this as well. If you are interested in participating in the RAC, please send me an email.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

A Vision for Kingston

I just finished reading “The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience” and must say that there are some bright and creative minds out there who are creating viable solutions for climate change and toward creating sustainable communities.

This means creating communities that can generate its own power, feed itself and thrive in the next century and beyond.

The author, Rob Hopkins, tackles critical issues with humor and positivity despite the fact that the clock is ticking. Since this is a handbook, Hopkins supplies us with steps for change and includes insights from thought leaders on a variety of topics to help communities make a transition from oil dependency to sustainability.

Of note is an essay on the psychology of change, which asserts that change occurs in steps, in small incremental ways.

The cover of the book illustrates a before and after view of a city block, very much looking like Kingston, I might add. In the before image, there are fuel-eating cars, vans and SUVs as well as a “Superstore.”

In the after image, all of that is replaced with wind generators, greenhouses, bicycles, gardens and people interacting in a local market. It’s a vision of positive change, and worth considering.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Natural Gas Safety

The natural gas leak that occurred last night on Broadway near City Hall posed no threat to residents, according to a Kingston Daily Freeman article.

That’s good news. But it does bring up an important point about natural gas safety. Homeowners need to check their heating systems regularly to make sure it is operating properly. Leaks are dangerous, and qualified technicians need to make careful inspections.

An excellent resource to find natural gas safety tips is the Central Hudson website, which urges inspections and maintenance as well as installing CO2 detectors.

— Arthur

A Lesson From Catskill

In this month’s issue of New York House magazine, there’s a story on the Village of Catskill — penned by yours truly — titled: Catskill Rebounds.

In it, I interviewed Linda Overbaugh, who serves as executive director of the “Heart of the Catskill Association,” which is an arm of the local chamber of commerce. I had Linda walk me through the revitalization of Catskill. The steps were small, she said. And there were tough moments, but there were a dedicated few who made things happen.

As many locals know, this sleepy hamlet on the Hudson was almost comatose. But Linda and other dedicated business leaders rolled up their sleeves and got to work bringing life back to Catskill.

Of course it took time — all good things do. The results are stunning. Once nearly deserted, Main Street in Catskill is thriving again. To get people back, Linda and others lobbied for cleaner, safer streets. They hired a consultant to bring grants in. Shoppers came back and businesses moved in.

The village hosts art nights and shopping nights that draw people to Main Street. It’s challenging to maintain, and Linda is the first to say that this “is a work in progress.”

Still…Catskill is inspirational. And there’s much that Kingston can learn; the first being to band together talented and creative folks.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Being Local, Part 2: Insourcing

At the City of Kingston Common Council meeting last night, the aldermen signed off on city vouchers — “general bills.” This included many services and administrative costs such as phone, electric and plumbing bills.

I was a little stunned to see a bill paid to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for $5,210.72. According to the city clerk’s office, the bill was for gifts that were purchased for homeless kids and victims of domestic violence — a noble cause indeed. But why did they have to buy the gifts at Wal-Mart, which is in the Town of Ulster and a company that sends its profits back to Bentonville, Ark.?

In the spirit of “being local” and “buying local” the city should be a good neighbor and patronize local shops and businesses.

For toys, there’s a great toy store on lower Broadway in the Rondout, next to the Kingston Foods & Garden site. There’s also Bop to Tottom in the uptown and the Parent Teacher Store as well. These are local businesses that need our support. Wal-Mart does not.

In all fairness, there are other local businesses that sell goods and services to the city. The general bills from last night included money spent with Binnewater Ice, Herzog’s, Timely Signs, and Speigel Bros. Paper Co.

But the city can do a better job of supporting more local businesses, and it should look more carefully at what it can source from within the city.

Is Kingston heading in the right direction? Take our poll:

Soup’s On!

stone-soupMidtown East has new eats: The Stone Soup Food Company.

Opened for the past two weeks, the eatery is located at 470 Broadway across from the midtown neighborhood center.

The menu features freshly made soups (of course), chili, bisque, salads, sandwiches, wraps and comfort foods such as mac and cheese, crab cakes and a real meaty lasagna.

Call for daily specials: 845.340.0470

It’s nice to see a business open in this part of town, which serves the workers of city hall, the high school, telephone building and other businesses.

Please show your support and stop buy for a sandwich.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

New Citizens Circa 1970

Google has a huge collection of images from Life magazine that includes some of the magazine’s most famous photos — of celebrities (Marilyn Monroe), presidents (JFK) and other notables.

But for giggles, I typed in “Kingston” and found photos taken by Bill Eppridge of a naturalization ceremony in the county courthouse here in Kingston back in 1970.

The images included immigrants holding American flags, which were donated by the D.A.R. members, who were in attendance. They were joined by the ladies auxiliary of the V.F.W. Kingston high school students were also on hand to sing “a cappella.”

What a welcome for these new citizens! Does anyone know if the V.F.W. or the D.A.R. or the high school still participates?

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Members of the D.A.R. attend naturalization ceremony in Kingston.
Members of the D.A.R. attend naturalization ceremony in Kingston.

Leaves of (Long) Grass Part 2

Thank you Rebecca and Jessica for the feedback on this issue of mowing and wildflowers. I can’t help but think that there are lots of good ideas out there that can be employed, which can save money and help the environment.

Digging around last night, I found an initiative from the U.S. Forest Service — “Celebrating Wildflowers” — that encourages wildflower growth. It’s a great website with some interesting ideas.

I know spring is far off, but thinking and dreaming about gardening and such is what you do in the winter, right?

— Arthur

Leaves of (Long) Grass

This week’s story in the Kingston Times about the City of Kingston’s budget offered a sober view of what department heads face in the coming year.

Reporter Jesse Smith quoted parks and recreation head Kevin Gilfeather as saying his department will “still be able to pick up the trash and do all of the regularly-scheduled maintenance, it’s the extras we won’t be able to do anymore.” Gilfeather went on to say that his department be might resort to cutting “the grass [in city parks] every eight or 10 days instead of every five or six.”

On the Ward 9 website, Bill Berardi speculated that “city trash will be left” curbside on the weekends and the grass will be “unmowed — nice attraction to tourists,” he wrote.

Bill’s got a point. Unmowed grass in a park is not a pretty sight. I wonder if the city could get a little bit creative here.

Maybe certain, street-adjacent areas of our parks can be mowed while letting larger swaths grow out with some planted wildflower seeds? Imagine a variety of wildflowers growing in the parks, adding color and beauty. Doing so would not only save money on mowing, but would be better for the soil and would attract wildlife.

Just a thought.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz


China Biz Trip Timing is Off, Look Regionally Instead

Did you catch the news today that economic developers in the county are looking to send manufacturers from the area on a trade mission to China?

An “Ulster County Business and Trade Mission to China” is being formed to send business representatives to China in May to tap that country as a direct export partner. The intentions of such a mission are good, but the timing is way off.

As reported last week, the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index set a 28-year low. The index tracks new orders, production, inventories, prices and exports, among other things.

Simply put, this is the wrong time to look for opportunities in China. The bulk of goods found here are sourced from China, which faces — for the first time ever — overcapacity. This means they have too many factories and goods to meet current demands in China as well as globally.

As U.S.  retailers just experienced the worst holiday shopping season in four decades, stores remain full of unsold inventories. Consumer spending is expected to slowly bounce back, perhaps later this year, according to a recent interview I held with Alan Sellitti of consulting and accounting firm BDO Seidman. “It will be slow, and the promotional activity at retail will continue for some time,” he said.

Perhaps a better use of time, energy and resources by economic developers would be finding regional markets that can benefit from Ulster County’s goods. Targeting smaller markets such as New York City, Boston and Chicago would require more creativity, but shipping goods to these places instead of overseas would result in better margins.

Better yet, why not pool resources and open direct-to-consumer outlet  stores of Ulster-only goods? Imagine being a tourist visiting a shop in NYC that sells Ulster County wine, beer, meats, gifts (such as Woodstock Chimes), pottery and art? The store could have books by local authors, and promotional material to attract people to the area.

In fact, why not set up Ulster County kiosks that feature our products from NYC to Albany, along the thruway? This would replace the tired brochures that are at the rest stops now.

In the meantime, it might be better to wait for market conditions to improve before sending a trade mission to China.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz