Citizens Share Their Ideas on Building a New Local Economy

When it comes to good ideas there is certainly never a lack of them. The problem is always finding ways to funnel and collect this information so it can make an impact.

With that in mind, we decided to reach out to the citizens of Kingston to learn what it is that they think the city should pursue in the way of building a local economy.

I’d like to keep this going so to hear from more of you.   If you’d like to participate, answer the question below and include your name, occupation and community affiliation (s).  Send it to us at:


– Rebecca Martin

What kind of industry or small business venture would you like to see in the city of Kingston? What incentives could the city of Kingston offer to attract it, and what obstacles are currently in the way?

Diane Reeder
Executive Director, Queens Galley

“In 1987 the entire state was in a recession and Martin Marietta, the community’s major employer, had laid off several thousand employees. There were nearly a million square feet of vacant retail space and downtown vacancies were approaching thirty percent. Kicked off the project in 1989 with the idea that “economic gardening” was a better approach for Littleton (and perhaps for Kingston too!) than “economic hunting”.  Simply grow our own jobs through entrepreneurial activity instead of recruiting them. They have developed a model that WORKS…and at least 14 other communities have used that model successfully. We can too.”

Adam Snyder
Writer/Musician/KMOCA Founder

“A supermarket located right off 9W would draw drive-up as well as neighborhood business. Something less obvious but important would be a place to mail things combined with photocopying and such (The US Post Office is cutting back at the moment which is why I think it would have to be a Mailboxes Inc type thing).  Restaurants alone will never be enough, not even for a seasonal/weekend economy.  If we want small businesses to operate in the Rondout, we need to give them the basic resources to do so. This includes businesses in commercial spaces as well as cottage industries out of nearby homes. Cottage industries may not seem like much, but in an era when it’s hard to attract medium-to-large businesses, a patchwork of smaller businesses may be what sustains us. Rondout isn’t the only neighborhood in Kingston, but what’s good for Rondout is good for Kingston. And more resources downtown means less traffic jams along Broadway.”

Melissa Everett, Ph. D.
Excecutive Director, Sustainable Hudson Valley

“Kingston could distinguish itself by developing a green building materials and products cluster, with appropriate manufacturing and assembly as well as distribution, sales and marketing, installation and support. Green building is a vast, fast-moving industry. From structural materials to windows to paints to roofing to lighting to landscaping materials, the industry is developing new technologies with reduced carbon footprints, less toxic emissions, greater materials and water efficiency and use of recycled materials, and lower impacts on the surrounding site. LEED, the primary industry standard, also gives points for sourcing supplies within a 500 mile radius of a job site. As New York and the Hudson Valley strengthen their commitment to green building codes within the state’s energy and climate action plans, opportunities to supply the construction and renovation industries will grow. Kingston has a solid cluster of relevant businesses already, including lighting, appliance, electronics and masonry supply outlets, solar installers, and a flagship publication, New York House. It has a local commitment to the “green corridor” along Broadway, where bike racks will soon be installed on every block. It also has complementary clusters in arts and the digital/ creative economy. Green alternatives in building move into the marketplace when consumers find them not only practical but beautiful. The potential for marrying green building with artistic and creative applications from furniture and interior design to landscape architecture, could give Kingston an enormous advantage in developing a green building cluster.”

K.J. McIntyre
Realtor and Co-Founder, Kingston Digital Corridor

“Years ago, George Allen suggested an architectural collete, maybe part of SUNY, based in Kingston. We really do have a great inventory of American architecture, a little weak on the contemporary but that’s within easy reach”.

Paul Joffe
Entrepreneur, Selling and Renovating, slowly.
– Read Paul’s article “Tourism In Kingston” from 2008.

“Kingston needs to make residency a 6 month process to avoid new residents who can not support themselves without local taxpayer assistance for six months. Kingston needs to hire a lobbyist in albany to advocate and promote itself. Crime is a quality of life deal-breaker, a dis-incentive to investment and settlement, and will lead to a spiral that can not be turned around. The city police are a valuable resource led by a competent, responsible chief and one of the best investments that can be made in the short term with the limited funds available. contracts with other city employees must be re-negotiated however possible. those who contribute their time and enthusiasm towards the improvement of the city should be recognized and given jobs. where salary is not available, real power to make change is often a sufficient substitute. those who agree on 90% should not spend any of their time arguing about the other ten. in a crisis only clear basic changes can be made, energy should go to consensus. by law, the subject and time of all meetings must be made public and easily available well in advance (1 week or more). those who schedule unannounced public meetings should be fined substantially. the subject of public meetings must be determined a week in advance and not be changed within a week of the meeting. notices must be unavoidable so that even the busiest citizen is informed. that means all forms of media must be notified and all public meetings should be scheduled such that working people are able to attend. the object is to have the greatest number of attendees under strict parliamentary rules limiting speaking time and relevancy to the subject of the meeting.”

Andrea Perrino

“We need to extend Technology jobs and consulting jobs into the Hudson Valley/Kingston area and get away from Retail/Medical industry. SUNY NP has a program and contest in the Business program on Business Plans (I’m currently working on one). They have great ideas”.

Gerald Berke

“We recently lost to the town of ulster a food packaging company. That, and others like solar manufacturing.  I don’t know what the city did in the way of offering either business incentives to be in Kingston or why we might have lost.  Some years ago, a random thing, a business man was telling me about his considerations for Midtown.  He said, to my surprise, it was hard for people to find the place, hard to give directions. We need better signage in the city inside and out! The idea about a KIngston Corridor struck me about then, and I’ve been poking at it for some years, rather ineffectively.  I brought the idea and some drawings to the city a long time ago, but there were no ears.  That seems to be changing now.  We have which is making a huge difference as there is someone observing and encouraging.

Some public celebration of new business: I know of none. This city does nothing, no welcome, no publicity, no thanks.  I would think having the mayor or a city committee,  meeting and greeting new business and getting that in the paper would help a lot to show we are friendly. What we see, surely, is that we are not.  For instance, there is no guidance on the web site for new business out reach.  One lady who recently bought a house from the city and has repaired and improved it gloriously had reached out to me to help her get through delays that threatened her ability to close the deal.

Andi Turco-Levin
Realtor and City of Kingston Ward 1 Alderman

“A historic preservation program associated with the college, perhaps to offer some sort of degree at the end. Somewhere in the mix, the City of Kingston could work with targeted neighborhoods to restore the blocks of vintage Queen Anne architecture (like Downs or Elmendorf Sts for example) There is grant money for historic preservation in some places. Perhaps the program would draw young people looking to learn about historic preservation (which is a growing industry) to live in Kingston while studying. We need to recognize how important this is to the future of the historic neighborhoods of Kingston. This city has a gold mine of potential preservation projects.”

Barbara Sarah and Jennifer Schwartz-Berky
Barbara is founder of the Oncology Support Program at Benedictine Hospital and the director of Third Opinion. Jennifer is Deputy Director, Ulster County Planning Board and Visiting Lecturer in Environmental and Urban Studies at Bard College.

“Kingston should create “cultural districts,” which is something that over 100 cities across the US have done in the last decade.  Many of these communities have successfully positioned the arts at the center of their revitalization strategies.  A number of well-documented studies demonstrate a very high return on local governments’ investments in such a strategy.  This “place-based” policy typically involves tax credits and other incentives for artists and arts-related businesses to support their work and the improvement of spaces within specific mixed-use areas of the city that are targeted for revitalization.  According to a study by the Americans for the Arts, “Cultural districts boost urban revitalization in many ways: beautify and animate cities, provide employment, attract residents and tourists to the city, complement adjacent businesses, enhance property values, expand the tax base, attract well-educated employees, and contribute to creative, innovative environment.” The New York State Department of Labor reports that Ulster County has nearly twice the number of artists (1.9 times the average) of any place in the country, which is high even compared to our neighboring counties (which average 1.3 times the average). Kingston is the perfect candidate for a successful cultural districts strategy.”

Arthur Zaczkiewicz
Freelance Writer and Editor and Garden Committee Co-chair, Kingston Land Trust

“Bicycle (repairs and rentals) and Fishing Tackle shop in the Rondout. During the warmer months, bikes and fishing is the merchandising focus while snowshoes and snowboards are sold and rented during the winter. A recent Sea Grant Study revealed that the number one natured-based activity for tourists and residents of Kingston, Beacon and Cold Spring was bicycling. The number one water recreation activity was fishing. And the number one cultural activity was visiting the waterfront to dine and shop.

Urban Organic and Hyrdoponic Farming Industry. Take the old Kings’ Inn and convert it to a hyrdoponic farm, which sells vegetables year-round to the community. Can employ between 10 and 15 people, perhaps in a co-op profit sharing model. The roof can be modified with solar panels to help offset the energy costs.

Redevelopment Initiative of Existing Commercial and Industrial Space. Here, new businesses would be encouraged to participate in this program with tax abatements and other incentives. They would relocate into existing buildings in Kingston that are refurbished by Kingston-based contractors who hire local helpers who may have been under or unemployed. This helps local contractors as well as local people while making use of preexisting buildings (green) instead of building new, which is not green or sustainable. Tax breaks would be big enough to discourage new construction.

Incentives: City-awarded tax abatements and tax breaks — especially for small businesses or start ups.

Obstacles: A lack of creative thinking.”

10 thoughts on “Citizens Share Their Ideas on Building a New Local Economy”

  1. Is there interest in a meeting to discuss how these elements could fit together? Within the framework of the Climate Smart Communities and Green Jobs Pledge, Sustainable Hudson Valley has said yes to the Conservation Advisory Council’s request to help frame the job-creation strategy. The Green Corridor Initiative has a number of small projects in development that can fit with the visions outlined above. Would there be interest in a meeting in 3 – 4 weeks, to share who’s doing what on these initiatives and how to weave the web coherently?

    • My vote would be for Nancy Donskoy to help organize several go-rounds of visioning for citizens to discuss in depth with Steve Finkle present.

  2. I liked Arthur’s ideas a lot… whether it’s the Kings Inn of something else in Midtown, there’s a model for that in Chicago, in city hydroponics. A bike shop is good idea, there is a seqway dealer in Poughkeepsie, and the notion refurbishing out industrial center with local talent, and we have very competent carpenters and builders here, is great. I saw a great “green store” in Maine, just selling all sorts of green stuff, including small composters, and still small enough to fit right in the small town as opposed to a big box store, and that would fit, I think, with the green corridor notion.
    The Kingston Corridor that Main Street Manager project and Nancy Donskoj has put forth, might include a clear path to the Delaware Industrial Park… nicely tucked away, there is little information on it, no invitations to visit.
    As to the police department, I don’t think I find that operation quite so laudable or effective… I think from Keller on down, including that dismal, dark poorly maintained police station and waiting room, needs fixing. The certainly have failed to engage the community and like many other police departments do now, they operated much more like an occupying force than the watchful monitors and assistants and symbols to good order. Police do not have to have a threatening demeanor or be difficult to approach and engage.

  3. I have been reading reports and plans that other small cities have initiated to “save” their cities. They all seem to have a common problem and complaint and some of that seems to be visible or applicable in our city.

    The main issue in this current economic downturn is that Kingston can’t sustain more poverty households than it already has. It can’t much longer sustain a fractured relationship with the outlying towns(Ulster for instance) and the impacts on tax assessments and the impacts of an assessment process that heavily de-incentivizes healthy investment behaviors. It cannot endure conventional policing ,a proliferation of marginal landlords, fragmented deployment of public works dollars,random large scale but disconnected redevelopment efforts, under-leveraged local history, scattered signage, unpolished gateways and a pervasive “why bother” shrug-of-the–shoulders attitude when it comes to getting the city out of its rut.
    To quote a passage in the last article report I read: “For vibrancy to become a reality in the downtown, uptown, midtown, a healthy neighborhood life is an indispensable building block. Vitality won’t materialize because of a new pharmacy, a new hotel or the removal of a distressed property.”
    Many inputs shape the direction of a city. An obvious few can be shaped directly by the community itself, such as zoning,local tax rates and the degree to which a city seems open for business.

    The article went on to say that in order to be a thriving small city with a vibrant downtown(or as in our case, midtown and uptown) and strong housing market, it will have to be intentional about becoming a community of strong and vibrant neighborhood life. Pretty basic?! I came away from this article with the feeling that if we “build/rebuild our neighborhoods, business will come. Other people might differ on my assumption but if we clearly get involved in city affairs as Paul Joffe eloquently stated we can make a difference and give our city a future.

    Just to add a wish list item: I would like to see the King’s Inn renovated, if possible, to become a part of UPAC. It could be a place of “artist in residence” for performers who entertain us in UPAC or any other venue. Many performers pass thru our city and not all can afford to pay for a hotel/motel. If a small fee was charged to the individuals they could be near their venue and in turn have time to tour our city.
    But I also like Arthur’s idea if the above mentioned wish is not financially feasible.

  4. Love Arthur’s idea of a sporting store on the Rondout – could also incorporate Kayaking and promote the environmental education programs that the Noble’s do. Think more boutique type stores like that on the Rondout would help the area get to a tipping point and ensure the daytime foot traffic the area needs.

  5. Think about this….there is no bank between Rondout Savings at Delaware Ave and Broadway and Wachovia on Fair Street uptown. That’s a problem. There is no post office past Cornell Street going towards the Rondout. That’s a problem. There is no market in the Rondout area. That’s a problem (soon remedied by Kingston Natural Food Market…shameless plug for my wife’s business!). There’s no easy-access place to do laundry uptown or downtown. That’s a problem. And there’s no Thai Restaurant in the whole city (ok…that’s not really a problem but man…wouldn’t it be nice to have?).

    The point is that services are lacking in all of our key population centers in the Kingston. No neighborhood offers all of them (though uptown comes the closest). And so, it’s hard to promote a city that doesn’t realize its shortcomings and address them. Then again, it’s not up to the city to say “Hey Ulster Savings…would you PLEASE open a small branch on the Rondout (instead of or in addition to the one planned in Port Ewen)?” It’s up to us. I’m trying. But more voices are better.

    And those same voices should be used to convince Arthur Z. that HE should open the fishing/cycling/walking shop. Talk about a perfect match!!

    Thanks to Rebecca for starting this thread! Very interesting ideas.

    btw…we also need more people to move here, work and buy houses. That’s one of the points of the Kingston Digital Corridor effort. Sign up as a “member” (free and no obligations…no free toaster either, though) and stay up to date on all things digerati!

  6. Well said.

    Not having a Thai food restaurant is actually a VERY big problem

    On a more serious note, today’s Freeman making mention of the Community Development Executive Director job (aka adminstrative cost for the CDBG grant) is paid for by the CDBG. I think his salary is upwards to $80,000 per year with staffing is $163,000. I’m not sure what has come out of that department other than managing the CDBG grant which seems light on the progress scale. The items you mention should be on his list if they are not already.


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