Traffic, Safety in Ward 4

There’s been some good chatter on the Ward 4 discussion site tackling topics such as traffic and safety.
Jeanne Edwards has a short wish list for the area near the library. “I would like to see Franklin st one way from Clinton to Broadway, then have Vanburen St one way from Broadway to Furnace. Make Franklin, and Vanburen both sides of the street parking. It would be safer for the kids, cars, trash trucks, everything,” she wrote. “I really think this should be done. Liberty st is one way and not too many problems.”
As a resident who lives on a one-way street, I concur with Jeanne’s point of view. I don’t know anything about street design or planning, but I can say that one-way streets that are strategically place sure make a difference.
Separately, “Gerard” posted a comment on the Ward 4 site noting two armed robberies over the past two weeks, on Clinton and Liberty streets — involving delivery services. “That merits at least broad and continuous public notice and warning to all services: do not respond to calls for delivery of any kind to that area, at least not after dark,” he wrote. “Citizens deserve to be warned if they cannot at least be protected. That really is a shame for the many good people living in midtown. It seems that there could be at least one or two well lit and camera monitored sites in Midtown where a person might be reasonably safe.”
Jeanne said she lives on “Liberty St and the past year has been great. Not to many problems. I can see when the spring hits the house next store to me will be some problems. These people just moved in and there are alot of people in and out. The music has not yet hit high but its going there.
I moved in 5 years ago and it took that time to get it cleaned up, now [its] heading back to where it was.”
Certain areas of midtown have been problematic for residents, and the city is aware of the quality of life issues that affect the area, particularly safety related. But awareness is one thing and action is another. Perhaps an investment can be made to install cameras and lighting.
What do you think?

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Wisdom From Red Hook

As reported today in the Freeman, a task force was formed in Red Hook to update the town’s comprehensive plan, and recommendations to zoning law changes are now in place.

You can read the task force’s report here.

For Kingston, there’s an important lesson to be learned. The Red Hook task force was a collaborative effort that keyed in on a collective vision for the town.

This is what Kingston needs to do. Whether the topic is the Pike Plan, waterfront development or citywide economic development, the city should be working toward collaboration between residents, property owners, businesses, planners and other groups as well as elected officials.

In the meantime, the blog here at KingstonCitizens.org can serve as a forum for ideas, insights and discussions.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Future of the Pike Plan

Last fall, U.S. Rep Maurice Hinchey announced funding for an upgrade of the Pike Plan, the overhead canopies located along several streets in the uptown section of the city.

Recently, city officials have said there’s a petition going around calling for Kingston to abandon the project. Several businesses would like to see the structure, which is rotting in places, be torn down.

What do you think?

Shiver Me Timbers, Arggghhh Mate!

Recent moves by the city and local developers to kick start the waterfront walkway project along the Rondout is timely.

As consumers pass on taking long, expensive vacations in faraway lands, local places of interest are attractive. Therefore, the waterfront in Kingston is an asset that should be carefully managed and thoughtfully marketed.

In Rhode Island, The New York Times reports that city and state officials are leveraging the area’s maritime history to attract tourists and business. Tall Ships Rhode Island has joined the effort by launching a project that includes building a full-size replica of an 1812 ship.

For Kingston, what assets on the waterfront can be leveraged in a similar way? The Maritime Museum and Trolley Museum come to mind. And these sites can surely step-up marketing efforts to draw people in. But what else can be done?

Perhaps the city can launch a marketing campaign that spotlights the Rondout as an historical destination. To make it fun, maybe there’s a one-day event that features maritime-themed music, arts and crafts. Perhaps there could be a pirate parade for kids, and a folk rock concert in the evening.

What are your thoughts?

Brooklyn in the Catskills?

Mark Greene, Kingston’s own Emmy winner and founder of Pecos Design, just submitted a proposal to the mayor that essentially rebrands the city as a tech hub, a sort of “Brooklyn of the Catskills” where hip, smart and small-biz savvy folks can relocate and thrive in an urban setting — yet be strikingly close to assets such as the Catskills, the Gunks and the Hudson.

“The city has a brand, but it is dormant,” Green said. “It needs to be brought back to life, and this is one way to do it.”

To see his entire proposal, read on…

Read more…

Why Montessori Works

As the Kingston Daily Freeman reports today, the Montessori program at George Washington elementary school is having a positive impact on students.

The Freeman reports that “Nancy Griggs, a first-grade teacher, said she has not relied on consequences for misbehavior or ‘bribery,’ like giving out stickers for good performance. Griggs estimated that she submitted 15 disciplinary referrals last school year compared to none this year.”

No surprises here. My wife and I have had our daughter Marina attending the Montessori pre-school at Winter Bear here in Kingston for the past two years. The teachers instruct students on practical life skills that build confidence, self esteem and self worth.

One of the mantra’s of the program, which is why it works so well, is to “never do for a child what they can do for themselves.” Also, as Griggs points out, there are no punishments or bribes. Students are treated as equal to adults, and are shown respect and love.

If you have school-aged children and are interested in learning more about the Montessori Method, check out this FAQ.

I also think there are other methods and programs available that help nurture young minds in positive ways. The Sudbury School is a democratic model that works in similar ways to Montessori. Another notable, alternative education method for children is the Waldorf School.

I think the nearest Waldorf School is in New Paltz. And there’s a Sudbury school — one of 40 in the U.S. — just outside Kingston off of Route 28.

Regarding the direction of public schools toward more progressive methods is long overdue. And it is wonderful to see that there is Montessori program here in Kingston.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Micro-Managed Economic Development

The Kingston Times reports this week that some people are lamenting how cuts to the Empire Zone program will be bad for business, but I say trim the fat away.

The Empire Zone program is a bloated beast that needs to be deflated. It is often misused by elected officials, and does not result in the type of economic development that suits life in this century.

A better way to spend dollars and marketing energy is to engage in “micro-managed economic development.” It’s simple. Here are the steps:

1. Empty your mind of old habits and ways of doing things. Large scale development projects are a thing of the past.

2. Create an inventory of vacant lots, storefronts and commercial properties in your city or town.

3. Encourage redevelopment of these existing properties with a thoughtful, focused marketing campaign to specific business segments that residents would like to see in their neighborhood.

4. As an incentive, offer these small businesses six-month tax breaks for relocating. Award the tax break after two consecutive years of occupancy.

5. Celebrate the success of filling these vacant storefronts with thriving businesses that make voters happy while swelling the tax base, long term, by encouraging other municipalities to follow your example.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Now is the Time to Unite

When Martin Luther King, Jr. made a famous speech at a certain march on D.C. in 1963, he told those in attendance that, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”

He was referring to the Civil Rights Movement, but this thought is relevent now, here in Kingston.

As president-elect Obama takes the helm of the country, local folks here in Kingston need to step up to the plate. We need to help one another at this critical time. We need to create unity.

On that last point, our most recent survey showed as of today that most people — 46 percent — in the city say “unity” is what Kingston needs the most.

The first step, of course, would be to work toward changing your own mindset. Look at Kingston not as a place with three distinct sections (uptown, downtown and midtown) and nine separate wards, but as one city with many different neighborhoods.

When people ask where you live, just say “Kingston” instead of midtown or uptown or where ever.

While you are thinking Kingston to be one, look at your own block the same way. Look at it not as a bunch of separate houses, but a single neighborhood where people have one amazing thing in common: they are all neighbors.

These are the seeds of community.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Define ‘Sustainability’

There is often confusion by some people as to what “sustainability” means. Once, a few years ago, a local politician had asked me to define sustainability.

To be honest, I had a hard time articulating a definition. Environmentalists approach the topic broadly, as it encompasses many aspects of what it means to be a good steward of our natural resources.

When I think of sustainability I think of Melissa Everett and her work at Sustainable Hudson Valley. Her approach is big picture, and involves the much-needed task of mobilizing multiple efforts into a single purpose.

When I think of sustainability I also think of buying local foods, shopping locally and buying local goods and services. I also think of Community Supported Agriculture, local farmers, vineyards, and such.

This past week, though, I think I’ve found a clear, over-arching definition of the word. It is from a statement by Emilie Hauser to the planning board of Kingston in regard to the proposed CVS development on Washington Avenue. This is how she puts it:

“Sustainable communities direct their development for most efficient resource use and high quality of life. Sustainable development meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.  There is a huge need for all our towns and lives to be more sustainable.  To do everything possible to cut down on green house gases.  We must consider in all our decisions, in government, in personal lives, in our work lives, how we can make our communities more sustainable, and how we can mitigate and adapt to climate change. Everything we consider should be viewed from that lens.”

Bravo.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Benefit Concert Draws People In

The Pat Metheny Duo concert, presented by KingstonCitizens.org to benefit the Kingston Land Trust and the Community Garden initiative, featuring Pat Metheny and Ward 9’s own Larry Grenadier at the Coach House Players last night was simply awe inspiring.

During opening remarks, Mayor James Sottile spoke of the importance of community work, and how “amazing it is to have a world-class” performance right here in Kingston, in an intimate setting with friends and neighbors. I couldn’t agree more.

So, kudos, hugs, kisses, bouquets and more to Rebecca Martin for booking the artists, marketing the event and filling the room with people (it was sold out) and filling it with love. Awesome.

And thanks to fellow Kingston Land Trust board members such as Steve and Julie Noble, John Garasche, Hugh Cummings (how cool was that display garden he created?), Bill Berardi and Deborah Cohen. And big thanks to: Lynda O’Reilly for creating one incredible silent auction; to Mark Greene for his designs; to Jen McKinley-Rakov for feeding the band; to Gabe and Kathy/Laura and Jose from Monkey Joe for serving the best coffee in town; and to Bob and the staff at the Coach House for being gracious hosts; among many others.

And thanks to the 99 people who filled the room, who came out to help water the seeds of something that will begin to grow this year. As Rebecca likes to say: Watch Us Grow.

And with deepest sincerity, thank you Pat and Larry for being so giving of your time, energy and love. You helped bring a city closer together.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Take Our Poll: What Kingston Needs

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