Mayor requests Fair Street Extension be transferred to Kingston Local Development Corporation for Kingstonian Project

CORRECTION: The Mayor’s communication is a request to transfer City of Kingston land (a parking lot) located at 21 N. Front Street and adjacent to the Fair Street Extension to the KLDC. Closing Fair Street Extension will follow this decision at a later date. READ Finance Committee Discusses Transfer of 21 N. Front Street to KLDC on February 10

The Ulster County Industrial Development Corporation approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) of approximately $26.2 million dollars for the Kingstonian Project’s luxury housing and boutique hotel project. This is supposedly to cover the expense of building a $17 million dollar parking garage – a cost that is nearly $9 million dollars less than they are receiving in tax dollars from county residents.

Now, Fair Street Extension, which is both a pedestrian walk and car route from Schwenk Drive to Uptown, would be eliminated in this project, to make room for an entrance to a parking garage that would serve mainly the Kingstonian tenants and boutique hotel guests. KingstonCitizens.org has asked the Kingston Common Council during and since the Kingstonian project’s environmental review process to provide a value for the street to the public but has been utterly ignored. 

Recently, the Mayor of Kingston submitted a communication to the Common Council requesting that they allow the transfer of title for the property to the Kingston Local Development Corporation (KLDC), contingent on the approval of the site plan by the Planning Board. The mayor writes that the transfer authority would be allowed based upon Not-For-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York that authorizes a legislative body (in this case the Kingston Common Council) to do so, in order to “lessen the burden on government and in the furtherance of the public interest.” The Mayor goes on to say “It is my position that the parcel at issue is no longer needed for City purposes as it stands today.” We’d like to know what our Mayor’s position is based on. Is it the woefully insufficient traffic study, performed over a couple of hours by a consultant that the developers paid for? 

Ever since Robert Moses began to allow Authorities to demolish or build whatever he wanted, they have become the most powerful means of avoiding public accountability in the so-called “public interest.” In this case, by transferring the property from the city to the KLDC, which he completely controls, Noble once again paves the way for an approval regardless of the lack of transparency in the process or having little public support.

We hope that the Common Council will disagree with the Mayor and take a different position: that a city street that outlines the historic bluff in the Uptown Stockade District, one of the oldest neighborhoods in America, has great significance and value as infrastructure that generations of Kingston residents have invested in. Is Kingston about to just give that away to these developers too?  Where are the Friends of Historic Kingston on this?  Like all other things related to the Kingstonian, the majority of Kingston’s historic preservation community have been publicly silent.

What is the KLDC?

The Kingston Local Development Corporation (KLDC) is a not-for-profit organization that was set up in 1994 in order, or at least in part, to take over the Kingston Business Park. Today, its board consists of 11 members, of which the Mayor is one and it is he who appoints the remaining 10 members. The lack of transparency in allowing a single person the authority to fully control the makeup of boards, committees and commissions, and thereby their decisions through appointments is just another instance of our flawed and failing charter.  

The Executive Director of the KLDC is also a member of the Mayor’s administration, typically the Director of the Community Development Department, funded by the Community Development Block Grant aka Housing and Urban Development (HUD) money. Today, that person is Amanda L. Bruck who also happens to serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.

In an older article, the KLDC is described as “exempt from many rules and laws that local governments have to follow. They aren’t subject to public procurement laws that require certain contracts to be bid competitively. And debt they can issue — even if for the benefit of a local government — isn’t subject to limits established for most municipalities in the state constitution.” 

As of 2021, the KLDC is composed of members of Kingston’s business community, with an emphasis on banking and real estate:

Mayor Steve Noble, President
Noble is the Mayor of Kingston and in our opinion, one of the Kingstonian developers. He appoints all members of the KLDC with no oversight. Additionally, the Executive Director of the KLDC serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. 

Andi Turco-Levin, Vice President
Turco-Levin is a former Council member and Kingston mayoral candidate (R).  She is a real estate agent also serves as a board member of the Kingston Uptown Business Association (KUBA). Andi lives in the Town of Ulster, which might disqualify her from serving. READ the KLDC bylaws.

B.A. Feeney, III, Treasurer
In 2014, former Alderman Brad Will, who served as the Kingston Common Council Alderman liaison to the KLDC, wrote a critical letter about the Kingston Local Development Corporation, questioning if the quasi-public agency was meeting its obligations.  At that time, Will noted that the KLDCs $1.9 million dollar bank balance was held at Catskill Hudson Bank, a change from when its money was split among five or six institutions. Feeney was the KLDC treasurer then and still is today, who now serves as the assistant vice president of the Catskill Hudson Bank.

Brad Jordan, Secretary 
Jordan is one of the Kingstonian developers. Although the organizational chart of 2021 shows him still serving on the KLDC, he is rumored to have just recently stepped down after 20+ years of “serving” on the board. If this rumor is true, it would be convenient that he leaves the KLDC just before this transfer of property is attempted. Jordan owns Herzog’s Plaza. He is also a member of KUBA.

Glenn Fitzgerald
Retired Kingston businessman and native Kingstonian! Have been a KLDC Board Member for the past 27 yrs. and was appointed by Mayor T. R. Gallo. (Clarification: Glenn Fitzgerald is not a real estate agent at Win Morrison. We have amended his bio line above to reflect the change)

Hayes Clement
Clement is a former Council member, Kingston mayoral candidate (D), a real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway, also a member of KUBA. He serves on multiple city boards including the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission.  On several occasions, Hayes has already voted on aspects of the Kingstonian project. 

Albert Teetsel
Teetsel is a retired banker and former Council member (R). 

Miles Crettien
Crettien is a Business Designer with a “passion for implementing sustainable development strategies for local economies.”  He is co-owner of Lunch Nightly in Kingston. 

Patrice Courtney-Strong
Courtney-Strong is Vice President of Courtney Strong Inc. She is a former candidate for the State Senate and Ulster County Executive office (D). 

Paul Cascario
Cascario is CEO & Chairman of the Board at the insurance company the Reis Group.

The Kingston Common Council must step up to its fiduciary responsibility and provide the value of Fair Street Extension, an important city street that outlines a historic bluff in our historic Uptown Stockade district and that provides an important connection that moves traffic to and from uptown Kingston. 

Call to action:  On Tuesday, February 2nd at 7:30pm, please attend the Kingston Common Council remote meeting and tell them you are opposed to giving away Fair Street Extension to the Kingstonian Developers.    

Sign-up to speak:  Please sign-up to speak by writing to the City of Kingston Clerk Elisa Tinti at:  emtinti@kingston-ny.gov by 4:00pm on 2/2

Tell the Kingston Common Council that the wealthy Kingstonian developers have already being given tens of millions of dollars in public benefits, including a $26.2 million dollar 25-year tax deferment in exchange for a $17 million dollar parking garage for luxury tenants and boutique hotel guests, and at least $6.8 million in taxpayer funded grants. Demand that they step up to their fiduciary responsibilities and provide the community with the value of Fair Street Extension, which will be eliminated.

Visit KingstonCitizens.org’s FACEBOOK event

Please CLICK THE LINK to join the webinar
Passcode: 7d2U6KDe
Or dial in by phone: +1 646 558 8656
Webinar ID: 854 7591 0827
Passcode: 51221337

The meeting will be live streamed on the City of Kingston YouTube channel

RESOURCES

Kingston Common Council Contact information

IDA Resolutions On The Kingstonian  by Hudson Valley Vindicator

IDA Resolution: The Kingstonian Is a Commercial Project by Hudson Valley Vindicator

It’s not over yet. Take action on the Kingstonian project process

By Rebecca Martin

On Wednesday, January 20 at 9:00am, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) approved a 25-year $26.2 million dollar payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) for a luxury housing development. It’s really the first of its kind in Ulster County, unprecedented not only in its size but also in providing a whopping tax break for a private housing project without the consent of all of the impacted communities. It’s a stunner, too given the new information that has emerged about the harm PILOTs incur, including the massive hit to school district budgets. In this case, all for a monolithic prefab luxury housing and hotel project to be located in our beautiful historic Stockade District.

A $26.2 million dollar PILOT for a $17 million dollar parking garage?

Although it didn’t sway her colleagues, UCIDA board member Dr. Diane Eynon stated her concerns regarding the original framing of the Kingstonian PILOT. Last year, the request was made by the developer for its parking garage. Last week, it covered the entire project including its housing. This was only made possible of course by the IDA having amended its housing policy (twice) in order to provide PILOTs for mixed-use housing projects with or without the consent of all impacted municipalities, all in order to accommodate the developer’s project regardless of the board of education’s no vote. (click on the image below to hear Dr. Eynon’s comments and ‘no’ vote)

“In the application and in the presentation of developers to this board in July they came to us seeking the PILOT based on a parking garage responding to an RFQ that went out by the city (of Kingston) to help solve the problem around parking. The way it was framed, the way it was presented to us was around a parking garage. When I look at the parking garage and the “but for” and the developer standing in front of us at our July meeting and saying “but for” as related to the parking garage…for those reasons I don’t support the PILOT.”
– Dr. Diane E. Eynon, Ulster County IDA

To understand what Dr. Eynon is referring to when she speaks of the developer’s “But for”, you have to go back to the July, 2020 UCIDA meeting where Kingstonian developer Joesph Bonura (alongside the City of Kingston’s Mayor Steve Noble) gave a presentation on their PILOT request for a parking garage. (click on the image below to hear Bonura’s “But for” explanation)

 “The reason we need a PILOT agreement, it’s all about the parking. If there was no parking garage as part of this project we wouldn’t need a PILOT agreement…if you deny the project there’s no way for us to move forward…this is a true but for…”
– Kingstonian Developer Joe Bonura

Communities throughout Ulster County take a stand.

There could be grave consequences for all communities in Ulster County going forward now that private mixed-use housing projects can qualify for PILOT applications and the IDA may override any impacted municipality who opposes it. The Village of New Paltz (VoNP) Mayor Tim Rogers and Deputy Mayor KT Tobin understood that early on and with their Town Board passed a position statement that PILOT agreements are harmful to local governments and school districts, especially now.

Fortunately for VoNP residents, their representatives have acted on all of their behalf, having been vocal throughout the entire Kingstonian PILOT process. Mayor Rogers in fact held the IDA accountable right up to the final moments of their meeting last week. Because of their advocacy, other impacted communities are starting to come forward. On January 13, the Town of Rosendale passed a memorializing resolution calling on the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency to exercise their authority and responsibility to uphold the Board of Education’s “no” vote and deny the Kingstonian’s application for a PILOT. (click on the image below to watch Mayor Tim Rogers during last week’s IDA meeting)

“Do you have any suggestions for local governments and school districts if you’re expanding IDA policy to grant PILOTs for-profit housing and mixed use where you do not need approvals from local governments or school districts who may object? In our village we rely on property tax revenue to fund things like snow plowing, fire trucks and health insurance for our staff. What will we do?” – Mayor Tim Rogers, Village of New Paltz

Unlike in the City of Kingston where on August 4, 2020, the Kingston Common Council voted unanimously to approve the Kingstonian PILOT where at that time the terms were worse than they are now and approved the Kingstonian’s $30.6 million dollar PILOT

It’s not over. Take Action on the Kingstonian Project Process.

A growing number of community members throughout Ulster County are concerned and wanting to engage. Luckily, there is still time to make a difference in the outcome and to potentially rein in the UCIDA in the long run.

The Kingston Common Council still has an approval to relinquish Fair Street Extension to the Kingstonian Developers, an action that would eliminate a city street to provide an entrance to the project’s luxury housing and hotel parking garage.

“By concluding that the Kingstonian will have little or no impact on the character of the district, the Planning Board is essentially saying that buildings of the size, scale, type, density, and architectural style as the Kingstonian already exist in the district. They are also essentially stating that there will be no change to the historic development pattern; that closing a street and altering the natural topography of the the 362-year-old settlement—a key feature of the historic district’s significance—to accommodate a parking garage entrance on Fair Street Extension are inconsequential impacts. It also sets a precedent for future development of this scale in the Stockade Historic District.” “Planning Board sees no potential impact on character of Stockade District by Kingstonian Project ” By Marissa Marvelli

TAKE ACTION: Every seat of the Kingston Common Council is up for grabs next year. If you live in the City of Kingston, contact your council member and tell them that you want to be informed as to when they will vote to give away the Fair Street Extension to the Kingstonian Developers. Let them know that you are against the closing of this important city street for a parking garage. CONTACT THE KINGSTON COMMON COUNCIL

The Ulster County Legislature collectively approves appointments to the Ulster County IDA, but it is the Ulster County Legislature’s Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee that makes the appointment recommendations.

TAKE ACTION: Hold the Ulster County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee accountable. Demand that they review the recent policy changes (twice in a year during a project review!) by their IDA appointments that allowed PILOTs for private mixed-use housing projects as well as to stack the deck to override any impacted community’s dissenting vote, such as the Board of Education’s “no” vote in the case of the Kingstonian. CONTACT THE ULSTER COUNTY LEGISLATURE’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE

Even though the Ulster County IDA has voted to approve the Kingstonian PILOT, it’s not too late for your impacted community to take a position against their decision to override the Board of Education’s “NO” vote.

TAKE ACTION: If you live in the Kingston City School District that includes the City of Kingston, the Towns of Kingston, Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Saugerties, Rosendale, Ulster, and Woodstock, ask your elected officials to take a position against the UCIDA recent action to override the Board of Education’s ‘no’ vote. To help you, we’ve created a draft memorializing resolution that can be used or amended by your representatives. DRAFT MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTION LANGUAGE

Finally, in today’s Daily Freeman:

Why is a $17m garage costing us $27 million in tax breaks?
“If they could build without the PILOT, why is a $17 million parking garage costing us $26 million in tax breaks? Changing the policy of the IDA twice in six months just for the purpose of giving The Kingstonian a PILOT is not only wrong, but unethical. I would like an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office into this action. I request all interested members of the county to go back and watch the IDA meetings and make the decision yourself. If you see what I see, start calling and filling out the forms as I am.” – Herb Lamb, City of Kingston Board of Education Trustee

Officials, please hit reset on Kingstonian approval
“Look at the variety of cogent arguments against and concerning ramifications of approval that your own engagement processes and investigations into it did not unearth, glossed over, or minimized. Please update your perspectives, analysis, and responses to this PILOT, and instead of ignoring and dismissing critical information and concerns, incorporate the missing negatives that many have brought to you with respect to this project and the immense tax break it was just granted. – Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin

The Ulster County Industrial Development Agency does some “housekeeping” before Kingstonian PILOT vote on January 20.

By Rebecca Martin

On Wednesday, January 20 at 9:00am, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) is poised to vote on the Kingstonian project deviated payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT), an unprecedented 25-year, $20+ million dollar deferment (and in the school district’s case, a loss) of property tax for luxury housing in the City of Kingston’s historic stockade district.

In July of 2020, the developer publicly unveiled their 100% tax exempt PILOT that at that time was valued at over $30.6 million dollars (that includes the PILOT and other public funding sources) in exchange for a parking garage. Although the developers and members of the Kingston Common Council insisted that there wasn’t any wiggle room to improve the project or PILOT conditions, after much effort and advocacy by the public, the developer added 14 affordable units, a couple of public bathrooms and reduced the amount slightly that is deferred over time.

READ: “The road paved by a $30.6 million dollar Kingstonian PILOT (in exchange for a parking garage): A timeline and next steps in October 2020

The request went out to the three impacted agencies for their consent that included the City of Kingston, Ulster County Legislature and Kingston City School District. Although the City of Kingston (8-0) and the Ulster County Legislature (17-6) approved the PILOT agreement, the school board, which represents 60% of the impacted taxpayers throughout Ulster County, rejected the proposal (6-3).

One of the things that we learned throughout this process were the negative impacts that a PILOT has on school districts. In a recent article called “Strife over tax breaks and tradeoffs: It doesn’t have to be like this” by The Benjamin Center (penned by Robin Jacobowitz with KT Tobin and Josh Simons) the author, a graduate of Colgate University with a BA in Education, a Masters in Education Policy from Harvard University and Doctorate of Philosophy, Education policy, Organization Theory and Qualitative Research from NYU, the Director of Education Programs at The Benjamin Center and an elected trustee of the Kingston City School District Board of Education wrote, “Public schools are dependent on property taxes for the majority of their funding. When an entity does not pay its full share of property taxes, that burden does not go away; unless cuts are made, costs get shifted onto other taxpayers. So when a PILOT is granted to a developer everyone else has to pay more. And even in an instance where a PILOT might contribute more than was being paid by the pre-PILOT property, that property is still not paying its full share.”

THE UCIDA’S CLEVER “HOUSEKEEPING”

Meanwhile, the UCIDA released their AGENDA for next week that revealed more concerns.

There appear to be two different items that can trigger a multi-agency review such as what occurred with the Kingstonian PILOT. The first is a deviation from the Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP) and the second, the inclusion of housing. Notice that on page 27-28 of the agenda, Resolution No. 1020 changes the housing policy so that the UCIDA doesn’t need all taxing entities’ concurrence.

The UCIDA could perhaps override the other agencies on the deviation. But when they added in the opportunity to fund any housing project in the housing policy last summer, they required agreement of all agencies.

During their recent governance meeting (and two hour executive session) they must have changed the housing policy (again) to have the same language as the UTEP for the PILOT deviation, sneaking it in under the heading “housekeeping” by adding an “F” after the “E” in the Schedule A (see header photo).

Furthermore, the authority for an IDA to even fund housing appears to be a complicated question. The state authorizing legislation for IDAs doesn’t clearly allow IDA support for housing. According to sources, the courts have, over time, considered certain housing projects to qualify if the project “promises employment opportunities and prevents economic deterioration”. Is the UCIDA giving itself the authority to support any housing and does it have the power to do that? Perhaps it is why, in the resolution approving the Kingstonian PILOT, that they do a little dance defining the project as “commercial”.

I guess we’ll have to see what the board members do on Wednesday and when this is over, we hope that our elected officials – with much public pressure – use this most unpleasant experience to deeply scrutinize the UCIDA’s practices.

The UCIDA meets on Wednesday at 9:00am. Please visit their WEBSITE to learn how you can view their meeting and participate.