Pat Courtney Strong: Testimony on Proposed Shooting Range (Economic Development)

I’m Pat Courtney Strong, I own 446 Broadway, which is less than a three-minute walk to the proposed shooting range. I headed the Kingston Midtown Business Association and the Business Alliance of Kingston for seven years. I’m the founder of Made In Kingston, an annual expo of local artists and arts manufacturers that just took place last Thursday at the Lace Mill. I’m here to speak about the economic impact of the proposed project.

Consider the investment – public and private – that is taking place in Midtown now.

-A mixed use building in Midtown sold for more than $1 million two weeks ago.

-The City is undertaking a multi million dollar rail trail project, funded by the State of New York, to make Midtown more walkable and bike-able.

-The Kingston Consolidated School District finally has committed to renovate the high school, in Midtown, to give it a much needed facelift.

– RUPCO just received a $1M commitment from NYS to help fund its E2 Energy Square project, which will create affordable housing in a former Midtown bowling alley.

– A newly renovated building on Broadway near my building is renting its first floor for $2,000.  An unheard of sum, just a few years ago.

– An Arts District has been proposed for Midtown, which would encourage pedestrian traffic on Broadway and the side streets that some of our suburban neighbors described as no-go zones until very recently.

And yet, in the midst of this progress, we had a shooting the other day near the intersection of O’Neil and Bruhn Street, casting a pall over what had been a string of good news announcements about the neighborhood.

And now, at this delicate juncture with much good news counterbalanced by the usual ups and downs of an urban area, proponents would like us to welcome a facility that apparently could include a shooting range, guns for rent and guns for purchase. A stone’s through from a high school housing 2,000 students. I’m appalled at the potential danger to those students, but others are speaking to that.  You only need to Google the words, “shooting range” and “property values” to see that communities everywhere are fighting this type of facility. Our assessments in Midtown are low already; we do not need them to go lower, especially now that the economy is rebounding.  This would never fly in an affluent neighborhood.  It would be called incompatible with the character of the neighborhood.  It’s incompatible here, as well.  There are many of us who are working very hard to make this a vibrant, diverse, safe, walkable neighborhood. We do not need a business whose marketing strategy involves exploiting people’s fears of being unarmed in our communities. Zoning laws call for the highest and best use of a building; surely this is not it.