Missed the Kingstonian PILOT press conference event? Here’s a recap and next steps

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“Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT: A History of the project” and Press Conference

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On September 15th at 5:30pm, KingstonCitizens.org, Kingston Tenants Union, Mid-Hudson Valley Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and the Kingston News hosted a press conference event in advance of that evening’s Ulster County Legislative meeting. It was our goal to raise awareness about a $30.6 million dollar tax incentive for a development project which proposes to build high-end housing and a luxury boutique hotel in exchange for a parking garage in the City of Kingston’s historic Stockade District.   

READ:  The Ten Things we Know about the Kingstonian PILOT

To start, the Kingston Tenants Union debuted their short film “Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT: A History of the Project“ in an effort to help the public connect the dots in a four year saga. “This is a case study of steamrolled gentrification and suppression of marginalized voices in the process.” said Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin after watching the film.

Speaker testimonies followed the film from the Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers, former City of Kingston councilwoman and Legislator Dr. Lynn Eckert, Kingston Tenants Union Juanita Velazquez-Amador, City of Kingston resident Larissa Shaughnessy and local comedian Duval Culpepper, all of whom encouraged the Ulster County Legislature and Board of Education to say NO to the Kingstonian deviated Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT).

In scheduling the press conference on this date, it was our goal to help coordinate as many members of the public to speak during open public comment to the full 23 member Ulster County Legislative body during their remote meeting that evening.

What happened to public comment during the Ulster County Legislature on Wednesday?

Public comment during an open meeting provides community members the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights. The vitality of government is measured by the level of public interest and involvement, and community members are empowered when they make their views known. 

Prior to COVID-19, the public would arrive at the legislative chambers and sign up to speak on any item, whether it was on the agenda or not. On contentious issues you could predict an overflow of the public spilling out into the hallway in order to have their two minute opportunity to speak to their elected officials in a public setting. 

Since COVID-19, the Ulster County Legislature has been meeting remotely.  To our surprise on Tuesday evening, with nearly 62 people waiting in a queue to speak on the PILOT for the Kingstonian, the clerk reminded the legislature of their new policy initiated in April which limits public comment to agenda items. The decision to enforce the public speaking rule was made by Chairman David Donaldson (D/District 6, City of Kingston) who is known to be in favor of the Kingstonian PILOT. 

Unfortunately, the new public comment policy has not been clearly or consistently communicated to Ulster County residents. Although it is within the Legislature’s purview to set those speaking parameters (unless the public challenges it), we don’t recall the clerk making an announcement of the new policy at the start of past meetings, nor are we able to locate where they amended their presentation slide regarding the call-in number or, describing their procedure on the website legislative calendar where the public could intuitively find information about public meetings.

Even one of the legislators at the meeting spoke out about the Chair’s decision to reinforce the April rule change on the very night when community members had carved out time to speak on a contentious topic before the legislature. “I feel obligated to state on the record that we have many times heard people speak on items not on the agenda…” said Legislator Abe Uchitelle (D/District 5, City of Kingston).

The challenges in following the Kingstonian PILOT process. 

Like the number of public parking spaces the Kingstonian project has offered, the rules and governing procedures around the Kingstonian process are constantly changing to accommodate the developers interests. Rarely has any level of government – the city or the county – provided good lead time or clear instructions that would allow the public time for speaking preparation.  In fact, several weeks back, we received information that the Ulster County Legislature’s Chairman Donaldson accepted a late communication on the Kingstonian PILOT (that came in after the August 21st deadline).  In an effort to enable the legislation contained in the late communication to be considered at the September legislative meeting, long-standing rules would have had to be somehow interpreted or altered for an accommodation to be made.  That plan never came to fruition yet it demonstrates the unfair terrain on which those opposed to the Kingstonian PILOT must operate. 

During the September legislative meeting, the clerk announced to the public that they anticipate the Kingstonian PILOT resolution to come in front of the legislature in October. Yet the public will only be able to confirm that following the Laws and Rules Committee, which occurs the evening prior to the full legislative meeting. The agenda will only be made available the morning of October 20. If the Kingstonian PILOT resolution is listed as an agenda item, then the big night would be Tuesday, October 20 at 7:00pm.  If so, we hope that not only will the public come out in force like they did this month, but the Ulster County Legislature will continue with remote meetings in order to accommodate every single voice.  If Chairman Donaldson decides to make October the month that the legislature returns to legislative chambers, the result would limit the number of residents who are able to attend due to current Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

TAKE ACTION

WATCH the film and recorded testimonies to learn about the history of the Kingstonian project and listen to a range of opinions from people who courageously spoke during the press conference.

READ “The Ten things that we know about the Kingstonian PILOT” and spend some time asking more questions in order to prepare your testimony for the next public comment session at the Ulster County Legislature.

CLICK HERE TO SEND A LETTER  to all of the representatives in the Ulster County Legislature and ask them to assure that their October 20 meeting (or whenever they are scheduled to discuss and to vote on the Kingstonian PILOT), remain remote to accommodate all Ulster County residents during COVID-19’s restrictions on public gatherings and, to vote NO on the Kingstonian PILOT.

“PILOT agreements are harmful to local governments and school districts, especially now.” The Village of New Paltz Pass a Position Statement on the Kingstonian PILOT.

At tonight’s Village of New Paltz Joint Board meeting, the village board passed passed a position statement on Housing and Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTS).

The Position Statement was split into two pieces. “First, a comment on the formula as to why PILOTs are problematic because of the NYS tax cap law, and a housing project like this does a great job at illustrating just how problematic the way the law is currently written.” said Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers. ” It’s such a problem that over the last several years, there have been many bills to try to fix it. Several years ago, it was passed by the Senate and Assembly, but was vetoed by the Governor Cuomo. It’s a formula problem and harms the taxing authorities, and is why a municipality would never agree to a PILOT…when you construct new housing, you are going to end up with additional responsibility and expenses as a taxing authority, especially if you are a school district.”

Mayor Rogers went on to explain, “If you build 100 new units that have “x” number of bedrooms, you’ll have “y” K-12 age children. It’s just math, it’s what happens when you add units to any community. The way sales tax law is currently formulated, you end up with new units and the schools district has no way to increase their budget to accommodate the additional demand on their school district. It’s a fundamental flaw.”

Deputy Mayor KT Tobin agreed. “Unless it’s for affordable housing, I don’t think PILOTs are good public policy. I thought five years ago that they’d be dead by now, because promises for jobs did not materialize. The lack of clawbacks and systematic accountability mechanisms has well demonstrated the failures of PILOTS. And now that we’re in COVID – a pandemic – I can’t even wrap my head around asking for buy-in from property tax payers right now given the cuts we are looking at and the fiscal cliffs that school districts and municipalities are facing. It appears to be a combination of denial and lack of awareness that this is not the right time for this and my municipality will be impacted as well.”  

During the meeting, Ulster County Legislator Eve Walter (District No. 20 – Town of New Paltz, Village of New Paltz) confirmed that “…typically the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) has the capacity to approve or disapprove PILOTs on their own unless the entity is seeking a deviated pilot. In this case, the Kingstonian developers ARE seeking a deviated PILOT and that means that all three agencies would need to approve the terms (the City of Kingston, Board of Education and Ulster County Legislature). If any one of them do not, it would be a stop.” Legislator Walters later added, “This is about equity and taxes. This is about being one community.”

Read more…

The Ten Things We Know about the Kingstonian PILOT and Remote Press Conference on 9/15/20

“Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT” is a remote press conference on Tuesday, September 15th at 5:30pm.  Get ready and CLICK ON OUR VIDEO LINK to join us and to learn what you can do.

Or, visit our FACEBOOK EVENT for up-to-date information on the Kingstonian PILOT process.

The Kingstonian is a proposed $50M, 143-unit luxury housing complex with a 32 room boutique hotel, 8,000 square feet of retail space and a 420 parking space complex. It also includes a walking bridge to the Herzog’s Plaza, which is owned by one of the developers. In exchange for closing a public street to create a “pedestrian plaza”, the developer promises a couple of public toilets. 

The developer is asking for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement where they pay no taxes for 25 years; a subsidy worth approximately $30.6M.

The Kingston Common Council unanimously approved the PILOT’s general terms. Although the Council may believe that the tax-free deal for luxury apartments is a good bargain for Kingston, it is only one of the three involved agencies that would be impacted by the PILOT and have to agree to the terms in order for the PILOT to go through. The other agencies include the Ulster County Legislature (UCL) and the Kingston City School District Board of Education (BOE).

A tax-free deal for luxury apartments in Kingston would be felt beyond the Kingston city boundary. Municipalities that pay Kingston City School taxes include the Towns of Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Rosendale, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock.  As a result, it’s not just Kingston that will be left with higher school taxes. PILOTs result in less tax revenue, which requires everyone else to make up the difference for a developer that stands to make a windfall in profits with a $30.6 million subsidy courtesy of the City of Kingston’s Common Council. 

At a time of financial crisis when the coronavirus pandemic has led to cuts in city services and jobs, loss of tax revenue on this scale could be simply devastating. The proposed Kingstonian PILOT deal could potentially harm the least well off in the city as well as hardworking taxpayers who already struggle to pay high school and property taxes while wealthy real estate developers get a free pass. For county legislators advocating for social justice in housing, services for the poor, and children in need, the PILOT should be particularly worrisome. While not all PILOTs are exploitive, they must be balanced against the potential gains an investor or industry may bring to the area.

There is still an opportunity to stop the giveaway that Kingston’s Common Council shamelessly endorsed. CLICK ON THIS LINK to send a letter to the Ulster County Legislature and say no to developer welfare and tell the Kingston City School Board that education is a public good. Everyone should pay their fair share of school taxes, including wealthy real estate developers.

The Ten Things We Know about
the Kingstonian PILOT

Read more…

Another Lawsuit and a Formal Complaint Against City of Kingston Decision-making and the Kingstonian Project Process

Stockade Historic District Building Footprints Comparison

The above image comparison courtesy of Marissa Marvelli’s illustrated guide for understanding architectural appropriateness in the Stockade Historic District

On Friday August 21, another Article 78 and a Verified Complaint was filed by a consortium of Uptown business entities against the City of Kingston, Kingstonian Developers and state agencies.

The Article 78 suit filed against the City of Kingston, the Kingstonian developers, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and Empire State Development Corporation was to annul OPRHP’s February 14, 2020 decision (see below) determining that the proposed mixed use development (incorporating a 420 car garage, 143 apartments, 32 room boutique hotel, and 9,000 square foot retail/restaurant space, pedestrian plaza and walking bridge) located at the intersection of Fair Street and North Front Street, within the National Register-listed Kingston Stockade Historic District (KSHD), along with the rezoning of approximately 0.313-acres of property to accommodate the same, would not have any adverse impacts on the Kingston Stockade Historic District.

As we reported back in February, “…without any significant changes proposed by the developers, the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) chose to unsee the adverse impacts that it had identified in September 2019 in the course of its review of the Kingstonian. The only rational explanation for this unexpected and illogical about-face is that this is the result of political pressure exerted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and by extension, Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

According to a February 14 letter to the ESDC from John Bonafide, Director of the Technical Division Bureau at SHPO, “After considering the material presented at our meeting and the subsequently submitted information, we have found that the evolution of the proposal has addressed many of the open preservation issues raised by this office.” However, the only change that has been made since his office last reviewed the project in September is that the Schwenk Drive portion of the development grew another story. Impacts that were identified in the agency’s September 19 letter, such as the project’s size, its monolithic scale, and its eradication of Fair Street Extension, have not been mitigated in the least. 

SHPO’s comments on the Kingstonian are part of a consultation mandated by Section 14.09 of the New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law. It is required for projects that are funded, licensed or approved by state or federal agencies. The Kingstonian is set to receive $3 million in funding from the ESDC. The majority of the project site lies within the National Register-listed Stockade Historic District.”

READ: “The State Preservation Office does about-face for Kingstonian project amid political pressure”

At the same time, a verified complaint against the Kingston Common Council, Mayor of Kingston and the developers was also filed, declaring that a portion of the proposed Kingstonian project property owned by the City of Kingston is parkland and subject to the public trust doctrine. According to the complaint, it was illegal for city to sell or alienate the park without prior authorization from the State in the form of legislation enacted by the New York State Legislature and approved by the Governor of New York State and completion of SEQRA on the alienation.

The complaint also states that the Mayor’s execution of two different Memorandum of Understanding’s (MOU) dated 1/10/17 and 6/19/17 should be null and void as neither were done with the consent of the Kingston Common Council.

In the June MOU, Wright Architects oddly assigned all of its right, title and interests to JM Development Group for what appears to be a $50,000 sum.

READ the January 10 and June 19 of 2017 Memorandum of Understandings.

The Kingstonain tax-free deal for luxury apartments would pay no school tax

Editorial Board

This week, the Kingston Common Council unanimously approved general terms for a $30.6 million dollar deviated payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the Kingstonian project. Although the Kingston Common Council may believe that the tax-free deal for luxury apartments is a good deal for Kingston, it is only one of the three involved agencies that will need to approve the PILOT before it can be implemented by the Ulster County Industrial Development Corporation (UCIDA).  The agencies include the Ulster County Legislature (UCL) and the Board of Education (BOE) for the Kingston City School District (KCSD). We anticipate the two remaining agencies will hold public discussions and a vote sometime in September and October. Write and call your representatives and ask when the PILOT is scheduled to be on their agenda and to explain in advance (and in writing) the impacts of a tax-free deal for luxury housing will have on your school taxes.

A wealthy developer will pay no school tax for 25 years?

What didn’t get a whole lot of traction during the Kingston council debate was the fact that the Kingstonian developer will pay nearly no school tax to the KCSD, and that impact will be felt by every municipality that pays into the school tax base.

In their PILOT application, the developers say that they anticipate minimal impact on the Kingston City School District because a similar project of theirs’ in Poughkeepsie has produced no school-aged residents. To further woo decision-makers, the developers are offering a $5,000 per year (for ten years) scholarship fund through the Community Foundation for the KCSD to use at their discretion. This translates into $50,000 over the course of 10 years in exchange for no school taxes for 25 years.  Another pittance in comparison to their school tax without a PILOT is a $40,000 payment that will be apportioned to the city, county and school district. If 60% of the total tax burden – or approximately $24,000 a year – would be paid to the school district, all it would take is 1 1/2 new students to wipe that out.

What will it cost us?

So far, the developers characterize their financial information as “trade secrets” and have aggressively sought to shield that financial information from the public. Without this important information, the public does not know what portion of the $57,885,000 project is taxable and therefore, has no ability to calculate cost or potential benefits to taxpayers over 25 years. 

Though at a recent special Kingston Common Council Finance and Audit Committee meeting, City of Kingston Assessor Dan Baker said that if the Kingstonian project were built today, the full property assessed value would be $19,000,000.  Based on the 2019-2020 non-homestead tax rate, the school tax calculation of $30.10 per $1000, the school tax bill alone would be approximately $571,900 per year.  Assuming the assessed value fluctuates and increases based on inflation and cost of living from year to year, the uncollected school taxes could end up being a staggering $18 million dollars over the life of the 25 year PILOT

A tax-free deal for luxury apartments in Kingston will be felt beyond the Kingston city boundary. PILOTs result in less taxable value which requires everyone else to make up the difference. Municipalities that pay Kingston City School taxes include the Towns of Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Rosendale, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock.  

Read more…

Next Steps: Kingstonian PILOT and the City of Kingston Common Council

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, the Kingstonian deviated PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement passed through the Kingston Common Council Finance and Audit committee by a 3-1 vote.

Yes: Tony Davis (Ward 6); Rennie Scott-Childress (Ward 3) and Doug Koop (Ward 2). 

No: Michelle Hirsch (Ward 9)

Recused: Steve Schabott (Ward 8). A recusal is an automatic ‘no’ vote.

There’s been some chatter about whether or not a recusal (not to be confused with an abstention) equals a “no” vote, and indeed it does. Here’s an example: During the proposed shooting range project vote in 2016, an alderman had to recuse himself because of a conflict resulting in a “no” vote. “James Noble said a recusal by Davis would be recorded as a “no” vote.” The same will be true next week when Alderman Schabot recuses himself from voting on the Kingstonian PILOT.

READ: “Kingston council president will ask Laws and Rules Committee to discuss proposed shooting range”

READ: “Recusal and Abstention from Voting: Guiding Principles”

Thanks to both Alderwoman Hirsch and Council President Shaut for asking the only real substantive questions during the meeting. The Oscar goes to Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis for his riveting performances.

Although the parking garage is the centerpiece of the PILOT agreement, it succeeded to move through committee even without a clear number and explanation of parking spaces that would be made available to the public (the developer stated that he couldn’t give the parking space variance numbers ‘exactly’ before making an apples / oranges comparison between the Uptown Kingston proposal and a project of theirs in Poughkeepsie).

Next Steps

The Kingstonian PILOT will now go to the Kingston Common Council caucus meeting on Monday, August 3 at 7:00pm where the full council will discuss the PILOT and what happens next. The public can call their council representative and request that during caucus, the PILOT be sent back to committee in order for all of critical questions that have been raised to be answered and put in writing. Without it, we won’t have a clear understanding of what the community is being asked to provide and what we can expect in return.

If the council decides not to send the PILOT back to committee that evening, then it will go on to the floor for a full council vote at the Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, August 4 at 7:30pm.

Counting Votes

TAKE ACTION: We encourage the Kingston community to reach out to the following council members before August 3 to request that the Kingstonian PILOT either be sent back to committee or denied until all of the critical QUESTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN RAISED are not only answered but put in writing so that there is a clear understanding of what the community is being asked to provide and what we can expect to receive in return.

In counting votes, the PILOT has four solid ‘yes’ votes that include: Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop, Ward 3 Alderman Rennie Scott-Childress, Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman and Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis.

At this time, there is only one publicly known ‘no’ vote for next week’s council meeting: Ward 8 Alderman Steve Schabot (who has recused himself as he works for one of the developers. A recusal is an automatic ‘no’ vote as described above).

The passage or denial of the Kingstonian PILOT agreement therefore hangs in the balance of the following council members:

Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Ventura-Morell
ward1@kingston-ny.gov

Ward 4 Alderwoman Rita Worthington
ward4@kingston-ny.gov

Ward 7 Alderman Patrick O’Reilly
ward7@kingston-ny.gov

Ward 9 Alderwoman Michelle Hirsch
ward9@kingston-ny.gov

Other Involved Agencies

As a deviated PILOT, keep in mind that the Kingston City School District Board of Education and the Ulster County Legislature both need to approve the conditions of the Kingstonian PILOT request before the developer can move forward with the UCIDA. The timing of this is anyone’s guess.

What we do know, is that the next Ulster County Industrial Corporation Agency (UCIDA) meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12 at 9:00am.

Outstanding Lawsuits

So far, the Kingston common council, in their discussion about the Kingstonian PILOT, have not referenced the litigation that is pending on the Kingstonian Negative Declaration SEQR decision by the Kingston Planning Board.

However, in a recent letter (submitted on July 17) from the Law Offices of Rodenhausen Chale & Polidoro LLP by Victoria L. Polidoro, who represents several property owners in Uptown, Kingston, the UCIDA was reminded of the following:

The IDA Should Not Consider the Application Until the Pending Article 78 is Resolved

The IDA should refrain from acting on the application until the pending SEQRA litigation is resolved, as any decision it makes may thereafter be invalidated.

The IDA is Not Authorized to Grant the Application

As a threshold matter the IDA does not have authority to consider or grant the Application for the Project which includes residential housing units. The IDA’s Housing Projects Policy, which was reaffirmed on January 8, 2020, only allows IDA financing it limited circumstances. It provides that:

A. The Agency will only consider the granting of any “financial assistance” (asdefined under the Act) for following projects that provide housing:

  1. A project that satisfies the definition of a continuing care retirement community project under Section 859-b of the Act; or
  2. A project by an industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, commercial,research and recreation facility (as defined in the Act) that provides workforce housing for its employees.

Last but not least, the conflicts of interest

On January 8, 2020 in our letter to the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules committee, we requested that Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman recuse himself from any decision-making pertaining to the Kingstonian project. Not only did he appear in a promotional video on the developer’s website (which they have since taken down) he has also delivered public testimony in favor of the zoning change (while opposing the call for affordable housing for the project and supporting the PILOT its parking garage). His testimonies occurred months after he had already declared his candidacy for the council (Daily Freeman 2/20/19: Kingston Democrats Choose Slate of Candidates for November Election). Because he operates an event venue, the Senate Garage, that is directly across from the project site, he stands to significantly benefit directly financially from the development which represents a conflict of interest.

An image taken from the video of support of Don Tallerman (prior to his run for office) that was featured on the Kingstonian project’s website. It was taken down almost immediately after the city received our letter on January 8 letter pointing out the conflicts of interest.

PROMISES WITH NO DATA: The Mayor of Kingston Comments on the Kingstonian PILOT

Photo credit: Paul Kirby, The Daily Freeman

By Editorial Board

The Mayor of Kingston sent out a press release today, one day before the Kingston Common Council’s Finance and Audit Committee is set to review the Kingstonian PILOT request of 25 years at 100% tax exempt in exchange for an air conditioned / heated parking garage that will primarily serve luxury housing tenants and boutique hotel guests.  This is certainly not the first attempt by the Mayor to try to influence the legislative branch in their decision-making at a time when they should have autonomy.  

Below is a breakdown of the Mayor’s communication, paragraph by paragraph, that includes some of what was omitted, misleading or missing from his statement.  

“The Kingstonian project is of great importance to our City – not only will it bring desperately needed housing stock to our community, along with much-needed parking, the hotel and retail spaces will bring visitors and tax revenue. The developers have committed to paying a living wage for all new jobs created to operate the apartments, hotel and garage complex, and the public plaza will be a welcomed addition to Uptown. A PILOT for this project will have no negative tax implications, only positive!”
–  Mayor Noble

The Kingstonian luxury housing project offers apartments where the rents would be market rate (+) and unattainable to most of the Kingston community.  In the PILOT application, the Kingstonian applicant is only asked to provide a living wage for a single adult. They state that 84% of their jobs would pay $20.73 per hour, which is not nearly enough for that single person if they were raising a child in the community.   Such a worker will not earn enough to live in the Kingstonian luxury apartments and will most certainly have a hard time finding an apartment at an affordable monthly rent with a $20.73 per hour wage. It may end up being a second job for that single person who might end up living outside of the Kingston community due to the lack of affordable rentals in a county that has nearly a 0% vacancy rate.  

Read more…

KingstonCitizens.org Letter to Kingston Common Council Finance and Audit Committee and the Kingstonian PILOT

By Rebecca Martin and the KingstonCitizens.org Advisory Board

Dear Members of the Kingston Common Council Finance and Audit Committee,

On Tuesday of next week, the Kingstonian development team will submit an incomplete deviated Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement to you for discussion. Council committee members will be in a position to either pass it out of committee for a full council vote in August or table the matter. We urge the Council to table the proposal thereby allowing time for the Finance and Audit committee to workshop the incomplete agreement. 

By requesting a special Finance and Audit committee meeting outside of the regular monthly scheduled time, it suggests that the Mayor wants the Council to make a swift and ill considered decision. As the direct representatives of Kingston taxpayers, we expect that his request will not pressure you. Council members must thoughtfully and carefully review the proposal so that the sacrifices being requested of the public are clear before approving the deviated pilot. 

If the PILOT is approved unchanged, the loss of potential tax revenues to our city and school budgets for mostly luxury and boutique hotel parking could simply devastate our already fiscally strained community.  We implore you to be keenly aware of your responsibility in assessing the value of the PILOT especially during a time of pandemic induced budget cuts because once approved there will be no going back. 

1. THE INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (IDA) MAY NOT BE AUTHORIZED TO GRANT THE KINGSTONIAN PILOT APPLICATION.  In a letter submitted to the IDA on July 17, 2020,  Victoria L. Polidoro, a lawyer who represents several property owners in Uptown, Kingston, points out that the IDA is not authorized to grant the application.  “As a threshold matter the IDA does not have authority to consider or grant the Application for the Project which includes residential housing units. The IDA’s Housing Projects Policy, which was reaffirmed on January 8, 2020, only allows IDA financing in limited circumstances. It provides that:   A. The Agency will only consider the granting of any “financial assistance” (as defined under the Act) for following projects that provide housing:  (1)  a project that satisfies the definition of a continuing care retirement community project under Section 859-b of the Act; or (2)  a project by an industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, commercial, research and recreation facility (as defined in the Act) that provides workforce housing for its employees.“ By approving the PILOT agreement now, the Council may be taking action prior to being certain that the IDA can legally authorize the PILOT request. 

2. THE IDA SHOULD NOT CONSIDER THE APPLICATION UNTIL THE PENDING ARTICLE 78 IS RESOLVED.  Included in Polidoro’s letter, she states that, “The IDA should refrain from acting on the application until the pending SEQRA litigation is resolved, as any decision it makes may thereafter be invalidated.“  

3. THE CENTERPIECE OF THE DEVELOPER’S LUXURY APARTMENT PROJECT PILOT IS A PARKING GARAGE. According to the Kingston zoning code, the minimum number of spaces needed to serve the Kingstonian project (for luxury housing, a boutique hotel and retail space) is 313 parking spaces. The proposed parking garage with 420 parking spaces is insufficient to replace the existing 144 public parking spaces stated while providing for an additional 313 parking spaces needed by the Project.  The Project will therefore result in a net loss of publicly available parking spaces. In addition, the Kingstonian will set the parking rates. Is the Kingston community, which may not be able to afford the air conditioned parking rates or find an available less costly, metered  spot, expected to otherwise park in the Kingston Plaza parking lot? 

4. AT A TIME OF FINANCIAL CRISIS WHEN THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS LED TO CUTS IN CITY SERVICES AND JOBS, LOSS OF TAX REVENUE COULD BE SIMPLY DEVASTATING.  While the intricacies of the IDA, real estate investment, and PILOTs are complex, what should be clear is that the proposed Kingstonian PILOT deal could potentially harm the least well off in the city as well as hardworking taxpayers who already struggle to pay school and property taxes. For Council members who have advocated for social justice in housing, services for the poor, and children in need, the PILOT should be particularly worrisome. While not all PILOTs are exploitive, they must be balanced against the potential gains an investor or industry may bring to the area. The cost of the PILOT may be offset by community gains that have not yet been realized and won’t come to fruition until after the investment. Those gains may be larger than the PILOT subsidy. For example, if you averaged each Kingstonian luxury apartment to cost $1,800 per month x 129 without including the affordable housing, that’s $2.8 million dollars per year gross revenue just for apartments. Over 25 years, that’s $69.6 million dollars plus the additional grants and tax incentives. The PILOTs that cause concern, which is true in this case, are those structured to eliminate the investor’s financial risk while displacing that risk on to taxpayers. While every investor would like to eliminate risk, ordinary citizens aren’t able to shape the political landscape to achieve their preferred financial ends. Furthermore, new residents and businesses will be adding costs to the City’s budget for things like police, fire and sewer maintenance. These costs are normally covered by property taxes. For all of these reasons, their proposed $30.6 million dollar subsidy deserves increased scrutiny for the actual benefits to the city. 

5. AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS IN THE KINGSTONIAN PROJECT ARE NOT BOUND BY NYS RULES.  The 14 affordable housing units that developers inserted into the Kingstonian project after much outcry were not a concession. The developer added another floor to include the additional units, now making more money: the project became even bigger without the developer sacrificing anything in terms of profit. Additionally, the developer, as a private investor, will create these units without state tax credits and will therefore not be bound by state rules. Without a binding agreement (that outlines the units’ starting rent, their size and annual escalator rate), there is nothing to prevent the affordable units from escalating in value. The Kingstonian’s “affordable housing” could become luxury apartments at any time. The PILOT agreement can and must stipulate their affordable housing criteria. 

6. KINGSTON RESIDENTS PAY SCHOOL TAX IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THEY HAVE CHILDREN WHO ATTEND PUBLIC SCHOOL BECAUSE EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM AN EDUCATED POPULACE.  The Kingstonian development team says that it anticipates minimal impact on the Kingston City School District as a similar project of theirs in Poughkeepsie has produced no school-aged residents. Following this logic, anyone without children in the public school system should not be required to pay school taxes. 

7. THE KINGSTON COMMON COUNCIL DECISION IS BEING MADE WITHOUT FULL TRANSPARENCY EVEN THOUGH THE OUTCOME WILL AFFECT THE LONG-TERM FINANCIAL HEALTH OF THE CITY.   As pointed out in Polidoro’s letter to the IDA, even if the IDA has authority to approve the application and the Applicant could demonstrate that additional parking spaces would be created, the Application lacks sufficient information on the Project’s finances. The Applicant alleges that the costs of constructing the parking garage total approximately $16.8 million which, after financing, would purportedly result in annual costs of $1,067,000 over 25 years. However, it is unclear if these cost estimates are accurate. The data supporting the Applicant’s calculation has not been publicly posted. The Council should request that the IDA release all data provided and engage an independent consultant to audit the Applicant’s estimated costs to determine their validity. If the agreement truly benefits the community, the data will prove it. 

8. NYS DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION INITIATIVE (DRI)  The applicant has said that if the PILOT is not approved, then the project will not go forward and the grant funds awarded to the Kingstonian project (or the entire amount, it isn’t clear) through NYS’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant will be revoked.  Has the city confirmed with the State that this is true? Could the grant funding for example, if not used for the Kingstonian project, be transferred to one of the unfunded grant projects proposed in the DRI application? 

RESCOURCES

READ: The Kingstonian PILOT – There is more at stake than just parking

Kingstonian PILOT: “Serious deficiencies in the application currently pending before the IDA”

Last evening, the City of Kingston and Ulster County Industrial Development Agency received a letter from Victoria L. Polidoro, Law Offices of Rodenhausen Chale & Polidoro LLP. Polidoro represents several property owners in Uptown, Kingston.

Some of the highlights:

The IDA is Not Authorized to Grant the Application

As a threshold matter the IDA does not have authority to consider or grant the Application for the Project which includes residential housing units. The IDA’s Housing Projects Policy, which was reaffirmed on January 8, 2020, only allows IDA financing it limited circumstances. It provides that:

A. The Agency will only consider the granting of any “financial assistance” (asdefined under the Act) for following projects that provide housing:

  1. (1)  a project that satisfies the definition of a continuing care retirement community project under Section 859-b of the Act; or
  2. (2)  a project by an industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, commercial,research and recreation facility (as defined in the Act) that provides workforce housing for its employees.

The Project will Result in a Loss of Public Parking Spaces

“Using a very conservative estimate, the minimum number of spaces needed to serve the Kingstonian is 313. The proposed parking garage with 420 parking spaces is not sufficient to replace the existing 144 public parking spaces and provide for the additional 313 parking spaces needed by the Project.1 The Project will therefore result in net loss of publicly available parking spaces.”

The Applicants’ Financial Analysis Is Insufficient

Even if the IDA had authority to approve the Application and the Applicant could demonstrate that additional parking spaces would be created, the Application lacks sufficient information on the Project’s finances. The Applicant alleges that the costs of constructing the parking garage total approximately $16.8 million, which, after financing, would purportedly result in annual costs of $1,067,000 over 25 years. However, it is not at all clear if these cost estimates are accurate. The data supporting the Applicant’s calculation has not been publicly posted. We request that the IDA release all data provided and engage an independent consultant to audit the Applicant’s estimated costs to determine their validity.

The IDA Should Not Consider the Application Until the Pending Article 78 is Resolved

The IDA should refrain from acting on the application until the pending SEQRA litigation is resolved, as any decision it makes may thereafter be invalidated.

An IDA Member May Have a Conflict of Interest

“However, even if this does not rise to the level of a formal conflict of interest under Article 4 of the New York State Public Officers Law, it at the very least creates the appearance of impropriety and weakens the public’s confidence in its government. Therefore, we request that this member of the IDA recuse himself from consideration of the present application.

Affordable Housing and the Kingstonian Project PILOT

CLICK TO WRITE  (be sure to add your name and municipality at the end and any other message that you wish to include):  Request that the Kingston Common Council and in particular, the Council’s Finance Committee demand that the Kingstonian developers provide affordable housing guarantees in their PILOT agreement. 

By Rebecca Martin

In our recent post about the Kingstonian PILOT, we reported on the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency’s (UCIDA) consideration of a $30.6 million tax subsidy to real estate developers in exchange for parking spaces. We shared our concerns that a subsidy of this size to the Kingstonian for parking spaces means significantly less money to invest in City schools, streets, public housing, and infrastructure. “It increases the likelihood that already overburdened taxpayers will be forced to cover any fiscal gap with increased school and property taxes.”  We demanded that a true value be placed on the developer’s PILOT before a public hearing is held so that the residents of Kingston are fully aware of the role they are being asked to play.   READ “The Kingstonian Project: There is more at stake than just parking”

The Kingstonian PILOT: Where the public good is a parking garage

It isn’t clear how to affix a value on what will become a privatized parking garage funded by public through subsidies. We’ve got nothing but questions.

  • How many municipal spots will there realistically be for the City of Kingston?
  • What will the fee structure look like?
  • What will community members be asked to pay?
  • Is the parking garage being built for the average Kingston community member or for those with the means to afford luxury apartments?
  • What would the fiscal benefits be if the PILOT was disallowed?
  • Would the revenue stream remain the same?
  • Could the City of Kingston conceivably be better off building its own parking garage for $30.6 million dollars? 

Affordable housing for now, but for how long and at what cost?

Part of what has been portrayed as a public good for the Kingstonian are the 14 affordable housing units that were included last fall after much outcry from the community. Even though the Area Median Income (AMI) is high (presumably determined by the Kingston-Poughkeepsie MSA or some other measurement beyond Ulster County), it’s good to have an affordable component added to the project.  

Typically, not-for-profits (NFP) who are working on affordable housing projects receive state tax credits and in return are bound by rules.  In some cases, those units can remain affordable for up to 50 years. As a private developer, the Kingstonian isn’t relying on the state and therefore, can use the “affordable housing” language without being bound by the same rules.

The PILOT agreement at this point is perhaps the only avenue to provide guarantees that prevent the affordable units from escalating in value. It could outline the units’ starting rent, their size and annual escalator rate.  Without that outlined somewhere, the Kingstonians “affordable housing” could become market rate at any given time. 

In a recent PILOT analysis completed for the City of Hudson by Joshua Simons of the Benjamin Center, the report highlights key variables and standards in the region. Although the project in Hudson is all affordable housing created by a foundation (apples to oranges here), we presume that if the Kingstonian project were to do the same kind of study for its PILOT it would prove to be an anomaly. 

As the terms of the Kingstonian PILOT are not yet fixed, now is the time that our decision-makers and the public can request a full disclosure of the true value of the PILOT (in order to avoid the developer inflating the public benefits) as well as a clawback provision and affordable housing guidelines.

Beyond that, what revenues do the Kingstonian developers stand to gain on luxury apartments over 25 years? Even thought he PILOT process is well underway, we don’t know as the information is deemed ‘trade secrets’ as are the sources of financing which the developer refuses to reveal. 

It’s impossible to understand why decision makers are not insisting on making all of the developer’s information public given the expectation of tens of millions in subsidies. Without it, we can’t be sure that the Kingstonian project would require a PILOT at all. 

RESOURCES

New York State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (SLIHC)    NYS tax credits for affordable housing

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
Federal program for tax credits for affordable housing administered by the state

Image above provided by The Kingston News “Kingstonian: Listen to the Community” rally

The Kingstonian PILOT: There is more at stake than just parking

Editorial

CLICK, SIGN AND SEND!  Demand that the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) require the Kingstonian applicant release financial data for independent assessment and to place a value on their PILOT request prior to any scheduled public hearing:   CLICK ON THIS LINK, SIGN AND SEND TO ALL DECISION MAKERS.  Please include your name, where you live and any additional message you’d like to include. 


What the Kingston community needs to know up front

The Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) this week considered a $30.6 million tax subsidy to real estate developers in exchange for 277 parking spaces. In the midst of a financial crisis, the substantial loss of $30.6 million in tax receipts will have a profound effect on the community. A subsidy to the Kingstonian real estate developers for parking spaces means less money to invest in City schools, streets, public housing, and infrastructure. It increases the likelihood that already overburdened taxpayers will cover any fiscal gap with increased school and property taxes. 

What happened at the July 8th Ulster County IDA Meeting Regarding the $57.8 million Kingstonian Project?

The specific agenda item on the Ulster County IDA docket involved the question of a deviated payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) request for the Kingstonian proposal, a $57.8 million dollar luxury apartment project in Uptown, Kingston. If granted, the Kingstonian investors pay for the value of what’s already there and not what they improve for the next 25 years. The estimated amount of the PILOT subsidy under consideration for a portion of a parking garage is roughly $30.6 million in addition to $6.8 million in tax-payer funded grants.  We have not seen a parking assessment (an estimate of how many parking spaces the project will actually need) nor do we know the true value of the PILOT request.

After the developer’s joint presentation with the Mayor of Kingston, the IDA expressed significant concerns, and sent the proposal back to the pre screening process.  The deviation and the delay will allow the developers to go back and discuss the PILOT agreement with the involved agencies (City of Kingston, Ulster County Legislature and Board of Education) to confirm their commitment before returning to the IDA board in August. If the IDA is satisfied with the progress at that point, they will schedule a public hearing.  In the meantime, without the release of vital financial information, the public is unable to assess the true value of the PILOT.  To date, neither the developers, the IDA nor the City of Kingston has agreed to release that financial information.

What’s the IDA and a deviated PILOT? How does it affect the Kingston Community?

Read more…

The State Preservation Office does about-face for Kingstonian project amid political pressure

By Editorial Board

Rendering by Mackenzie Architects

Without any significant changes proposed by the developers, the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has chosen to unsee the adverse impacts that it had identified in September 2019 in the course of its review of the Kingstonian. The only rational explanation for this unexpected and illogical about-face is that this is the result of political pressure exerted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and by extension, Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

According to a February 14 letter to the ESDC from John Bonafide, Director of the Technical Division Bureau at SHPO, “After considering the material presented at our meeting and the subsequently submitted information, we have found that the evolution of the proposal has addressed many of the open preservation issues raised by this office.” However, the only change that has been made since his office last reviewed the project in September is that the Schwenk Drive portion of the development grew another story. Impacts that were identified in the agency’s September 19 letter, such as the project’s size, its monolithic scale, and its eradication of Fair Street Extension, have not been mitigated in the least. 

SHPO’s comments on the Kingstonian are part of a consultation mandated by Section 14.09 of the New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law. It is required for projects that are funded, licensed or approved by state or federal agencies. The Kingstonian is set to receive $3 million in funding from the ESDC. The majority of the project site lies within the National Register-listed Stockade Historic District.

We do not know yet how this will impact the active Article 78 suit filed by a consortium of Uptown business entities against the City of Kingston and the developers. SHPO’s latest findings do not detract from the main premise of the lawsuit—that the Kingston Planning Board failed to take a “hard look” at the facts of the project during the State Environmental Quality Review. 

SHPO’s findings also do not negate the project’s pending review by the local Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose responsibility it will be to scrutinize the design details big and small, something that SHPO does not do in its review. 

As KingstonCitizens.org has reported in the past, the developers of the Kingstonian are the beneficiaries of substantial taxpayer-funded state grants. In addition to the $3 million from the ESDC, they have been awarded $3.8 million from Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant. They are also likely to seek an unknown sum of municipal tax breaks through the Ulster County IDA. In addition to all of that and perhaps of most value, they have a political leader like Mayor Steve Noble for a partner, who over the course of the past year, has seemingly gone out of his way to use the powers of his office to influence the outcome of the project’s regulatory review, whether by having his corporation counsels mislead and bully individuals, removing members of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, or by seeing to it that the zoning law is disregarded. 

From the recent effort to merge departments and provide his spouse a new position with increased pay to creating positions for housing initiatives, this mayor’s determination to muscle through his agenda with or without the Common Council’s consent—and sometimes at the expense of others—is infuriating. The pressure on the Council to unquestionably support the Kingstonian is great. We hope they hold the line for our community. 

Note: For an excellent in-depth background on the developers of the Kingstonian and the origins of the project, listen to the August 16, 2019 episode of “The Source with Hillary Harvey” on RadioKingston.

Kingstonian Zoning Petition Back at Ulster County Planning Board

By Rebecca Martin

“When you read the negative declaration by the planning board (for the Kingstonian Project), they almost don’t seem to get the gist of that letter from the Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) relative to why there is an impact on the stockade district.”
Dennis Doyle, UCPB

On February 5, the Ulster County Planning Board reviewed the Kingstonian Group Development LLC zoning map amendment for a second time. According to Ulster County Planning Director Dennis Doyle, the letter was referred back because the city’s request had been submitted to the county during the project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). With a determination made, the Ulster County Planning Board (UCPB) would take another look including at the new affordable housing provision.

The following is video from the meeting filmed by The Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizenes.org. The blog image captures the required modifications and UCPB advisory comments.

RESOURCES

VIEW: Adverse Impact Letter from Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP)
VIEW: City of Kingston Comprehensive Plan (CP)

2:26 (loosely transcribed) Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan and its affordable housing requirement is for any new or expanding building or development. It wants to abandon the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) in favor of a citywide standard. The UCPB recommends it should be simplified and “a standard set of rules regarding the provision for all multifamily residential applications in the city should be promulgated regardless of location.

5:54 (loosely transcribed) Kingston’s City Zoning Enforcement Officer (CZO) rendered a ruling about whether or not the MUOD permitted new construction and if so, required affordable housing. The statutory language of adaptive reuse would require 20%. ZEO determined that it doesn’t apply. That if new construction is permitted, it does not require affordable housing. Really the city can’t rely on MUOD to provide affordable housing anywhere in the city because of that ruling. That’s a real problematic way to move forward if we are going to let the MUOD continue. The applicant has involuntary offered affordable housing in the project and if you do the math, it’s about 10% of the project.

7:41 (loosely transcribed) County recommendations. Overarching recommendations rest on the City of Kingston’s own planning documents. We find the map amendment to be inconsistent with the purposes of the MUOD and the CP. and therefore, it should not be implemented without clarification of the ability of the District to be used to issue special permits for new construction. Additionally, if such new construction is allowed by special permit, a provision of affordable housing shall also apply.

8:35 (loosely transcribed) Doyle outlines the county’s original recommendations: Option 1, To follow the recommendations of the CP and abandon the MUOD in favor of establishing City-wide affordable housing regulations for all multi-family development, etc. Option 2, To modify the existing MUOD by specifically allowing new construction under the special use section and add the applicability of the affordable housing provision to this use. This is more of a band-aid approach to achieving the goals of the CP for the more limited area of the MUOD. If you are going to amend the map, then you must amend the language in the statute.

9:53 (loosely transcribed) The negative declaration issued by the Kingston Planning Board addresses the issues of whether or not there is a material conflict with adopted plans or goals. The Kingston Planning Board said that they found no conflict. But they do specifically note the 14 affordable housing units is a welcome inclusion. The lead agency determination regarding the zoning petition and its lack of conflict with community plans and goals as officially approved is the critical question before the Common Council and before the County Planning Board. The Common Council is somewhat bound by the lead agency’s determination. But that bounding is in response to the voluntary inclusion of affordable housing as part of the project.

11:15 (loosely transcribed) The neg dec addresses something called community character and historic resources. OPRHP has issued an adverse effect for the project. “The lead agency determination regarding Community Character the zoning petition and its lack of conflict with community plans and goals as officially approved is the critical question before the common council.” When you read the negative declaration by the planning board, they almost don’t seem to get the gist of the letter from the OPRHP relative to why there is an impact on the stockade district….but they never succintinly address the tie in between moving the project elements down slope or cross slope to tie into the schwenk drive commercial area as compared with the traditional ending of that at the Montgomery Ward building or at the top of the hill.

13:16 (loosely transcribed) Required modifications: the place where we are as pertains to affordable housing. ZEO provision says affordable housing is not needed with new construction yet the applicant voluntarily provides it. If that’s the case, then the voluntary provision by the applicant should be enshrined in the city’s planning approvals – as it could be voluntary today and during planning approvals, disappear tomorrow. The UCPB all agreed.

16:47 (loosely transcribed) Advisory comments. As stated previously, the UCPB’s overarching goal was to provide for inclusion of affordable housing. The voluntary provision offered by the developer is offset by the ruling of the ZEO that none is needed. While the board will not require a specific change, the required modification is to ensure that the affordable housing element as offered is not voluntary and is enshrined in the City’s planning approvals in a manner that defines affordability. The UCPB’s advisory comments are to strongly urge the city to abandon the MUOD district and adopt a city-wide solution to affordable housing and its design; Address more fully the adverse effects letter from OPRHP regarding their concerns about district impacts associated with the project tying the historic stockade area to the commercial area along Schwenk Drive as part of any map amendment; Note the need to clarify or include lower Fair Street in the rezoning depending on its ownership/interpretation; Note: the inclusion of a deviated PILOT by the Ulster County IDA in a Neg Dec. No discussion of a PILOT appears in the economic data released to date; Appreciation for the referral by the city to the amendment and inclusion of the affordable housing.

The UCPB said that the rezoning offers the city a clearer recommendation or response to the adverse effect letter. As part of the re-zoning they should look at this, understand and reexamine and clarify the negative declaration in terms of why it’s not an adverse effect in regards to zoning….there are state monies involved here. The state monies will require that they clear up that adverse effect letter otherwise, they’ll run into issues with the state funding. Discussion regarding Fair Street ensued. SHPO calls Fair street historic in some instances.

24:33 (loosely transcribed) On the project being a public/private partnership. We’ve seen a lot of positive economic data put out by the applicant. The negative declaration indicates a deviated PILOT by the UCIDA, meaning that it’s not a standard PILOT under the unified tax exemption policy and we don’t know what it will be. No discussion of the PILOT appears as the economic data released to date. We want transparency here – what the applicant is asking the public to participate in as the project goes forward. The IDA has a matrix, and they are going to propose that the IDA goes outside of the Matrix. In a public/private partnership, you should put everything on the table to fund your garage. The board agreed that it should be included in their comments as it’s in the Neg Dec determination and therefore a part of the SEQR process after discussion.

30:54 (loosely transcribed) Why was this matter sent back to us? Because they completed the SEQR process and we asked that they do so once the SEQR process was done. We asked to resubmit with the affordable housing provision. One of the UCPB members felt the language needed to be stronger. Dennis was concerned about changing the language from before. Public/Private partnerships should be much more up front about what they are asking the public to participate in. So far, we have seen no indication of what the public is being asked to participate in. It’s like traffic or anything else. There should be more transparency as a recommendation.

The UCPB approved the items.

Laws and Rules Committee Public Hearing on January 15 at 6:00pm Regarding a Rezoning Request for the Kingstonian Project.

In June of 2019, after months of the Kingston Planning Board reviewing the Kingstonian project application and well into the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, the project developers submitted a zoning petition to the Kingston Common Council to request an extension to the current Mixed Used Overlay District (MUOD) and zoning map to include 0.313 acres (approximately 12%) of the Kingstonian project site that lie outside of the MUOD. But as it turned out, the council would need to postpone any discussion or decision-making for this request (and all of its discretionary decision making for the project) until after the SEQR process concluded.

With the SEQR process behind us (in December of 2019, the Kingston Planning Board as Lead Agency issued a negative declaration determination), the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, January 15 at 6:00pm at Kingston City Hall (council chambers) located at 420 Broadway for a request to rezone a portion of the Uptown property where the Kingstonian mixed-use development is proposed to be built

KingstonCitizens.org will deliver its petition requesting that the common council provide a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds before it proceeds and that Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman recuse himself of any decision-making given his early public support and conflicts of interest (see our testimony below for more details).

The public is invited to provide testimony that evening of approximately 2-3 minutes in length (the time allotted will be set by the Laws and Rules Committee chairman Jeffrey Ventura-Morell). It is uncertain whether there will be an open public comment period following the public hearing. If you are unable to attend, we recommend that you submit your comments to the council members (listed below) as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about the public hearing, please contact Jeffrey Ventura-Morell directly.

Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee

Jeffrey Ventura-Morell, Chair
ward1@kingston-ny.gov

Rita Worthington
ward4@kingston-ny.gov

Don Tallerman
ward5@kingston-ny.gov

Rennie Scott-Childress
ward3@kingston-ny.gov

Patrick O’Reilly
ward7@kingston-ny.gov

Andrea Shaut, Council President
commoncouncil@kingston-ny.gov

To the members of the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee from KingstonCitizens.org:

In the summer of 2019, KingstonCitizens.org organized a petition drive that requests that the Common Council uphold the affordable housing mandate of the Mixed Use Overlay (MUOD) and request a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds as was required by the City for earlier development proposals. While the developers have finally incorporated some affordable housing units into their project (but only by expanding an already overscaled development), the total amount of taxpayer dollars that the Kingstonian developers say is required to make the project happen has yet been disclosed.

Beyond the $6.8 million in New York State grants that have been publicly awarded (Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Restore NY, and a separate Empire State Development Corporation grant), the public remains in the dark about the following: 

  1. The value of tax breaks to be sought from the Ulster County Industrial Development Association through what is known as a PILOT;  
  2. The value of all municipal real estate to be given over to the project, including Fair Street Extension and the city parking lot parcel on North Front Street; 
  3. The municipal parking revenue that will be lost once the lot is sold; 
  4. The total cost of infrastructure upgrades the City will have to undertake to accommodate a project of this magnitude; and, 
  5. Any other public grants, tax credits, or subsidies the developers may be seeking but have not disclosed.  

Given the long-term profits that the development team stands to gain with this project, the total public investment to be made to realize this project must be outlined. It is the Common Council’s fiduciary responsibility to determine whether the public benefit is worth the public cost. As the Ulster County Planning Board wrote in its September 4, 2019 letter to the City of Kingstons’ former Common Council President James Noble, “It would be appropriate as part of the public/private partnership that this project represents that the public understand how much of a role they are being asked to play.”

On behalf of KingstonCitizens.org, we present a hard copy of the petition with 240 signatures respectfully requesting that you obtain and disclose the full accounting of all public subsidies to be used for this project as well as a copy of the developers’ pro forma before you consider amending the Mixed Use Overlay District boundaries and any other discretionary approvals for the Kingstonian project. 

Additionally, we request that Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman, who is a member of the Council’s Laws and Rules Committee, recuse himself from any decision-making pertaining to the Kingstonian project. Not only does he appear in a promotional video on the developer’s website he has also delivered public testimony in favor of the zoning change (while opposing the call for affordable housing for the project and supporting the PILOT its parking garage). His testimonies occurred months after he had already declared his candidacy for the council (Daily Freeman 2/20/19: Kingston Democrats Choose Slate of Candidates for November Election). Because he operates an event venue, the Senate Garage, that is directly across from the project site, he stands to significantly benefit directly financially from the development which represents a conflict of interest.

Thank you.

Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman, who currently serves as a member of the council Laws and Rules Committee, speaks in support of the Kingstonian Project months after he was tapped as the Kingston Common Council Democratic Ward 5 Alderman candidate.
Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman, who currently serves as a member of the council Laws and Rules Committee, delivered public testimony in favor of the zoning change (while opposing the call for affordable housing for the project and supporting the PILOT for its parking garage). His testimonies occurred months after he had already declared his candidacy for the council

(UPDATE: Following our post, the Kingstonian Project removed Don and Judy Tallerman’s video of support from their website, as seen above. But we still have it)


Additional Reading:

READ: Kingstonian Zoning Amendment and the Kingston Common Council

READ: Take Action and Written Comments Accepted for Kingstonian Zoning Amendment Through Friday, August 16 (from 2019)

Do you remember? 2007: Kingston Historic Stockade District placed on ‘Seven to Save’ list. What KingstonCitizens.org will be following in 2020

By Rebecca Martin

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
George Bernard Shaw

With the Kingstonian project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR)  behind us, KingstonCitizens.org is in the midst of creating a detailed timeline of the process  to be part of the public record. Doing so has taken us back nearly 20 years to the early 2000s when the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) was created. While digging through the archives, we have come across items like the one below from 2007 when the Kingston Historic Stockade was nominated for and selected by the Preservation League of NYS as one of its “seven to save” preservation campaign.  

That successful effort was largely thanks to the late Avery Smith, then the chair of the Friends of Historic Kingston (FOHK) board, and others including Ed Ford, who led a coalition of partners who advocated for new construction “designed in a manner that would not detract from the unique aspects of the Stockade Historic District.”  The 12-story mixed-use building with a parking garage, proposed by the NJ-based Teicher Organization, has a lot of similarities to today’s Kingstonian project in size, location, and uses. Smith was also strongly opposed to the Kingstonian design as he believed the scale and architecture is incompatible with the Stockade. 

In addition to mapping the Kingstonian SEQR process, we are creating timelines for ten (10) other controversial campaigns that we were also deeply engaged on, including Niagara Bottling, Water Sales Referendum, Shooting Range/Gun Shop, GlidePath/Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. Each one will be collaborative so that members of the public can include  things we may have missed. 

LANDMARK STATUS:  LOCATED IN A NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC DISTRICT. 

THREAT: INAPPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT

“A 12-story condominium project including parking garage and retail spaces is proposed for a site on the boundary of a National Register and local landmark district. The project is completely out of scale with the historic district which includes the Senate House State Historic Site, the first capital of New York State. Advocates are seeking a full environmental impact review, denial of height variances, and formal review role for the project by the local historic district commission. Friends of Historic Kingston, a Preservation Colleague group, joined other nominators to form the Citizens Concerned for Planning Kingston’s Future. The nominators are not opposed to development on the site and are advocating for a building designed in a manner that will not detract from the unique aspects of the Stockade Historic District.

Objectives: Advocates hope to implement the established review process to guide alteration of design for a more appropriately-scaled project.”

What KingstonCitizens.org will be following in 2020

These are our top three items to follow in the new year.

1. Kingstonian project’s discretionary decisions.  A project (or action) like the Kingstonian is subject to SEQR when any state or local agency has authority to issue a permit, license, or other type of approval for that action.  SEQR also applies if an agency funds or directly undertakes a project, or adopts a resource management plan, rule or policy that affects the environment. It’s only after the SEQR process is complete that involved agencies can move forward with their decision-making. On December 16, the Kingston Planning Board as Lead Agency of the Kingstonian SEQR process made a negative declaration. The developer will likely not waste any time seeking agency approvals.   

Key decisions include (please check the agendas attached from the City of Kingston for updates on discussion items or contact Elisa Tinti, City Clerk at (845) 334-3915 or email cityclerk@kingston-ny.gov):

Kingston City School Board of Education
Approvals:  Deviated PILOT review (rumored to be 25 years)
Next meeting: Wednesday, January 8 & 22 (details remain unclear)
Contact: James Shaugnessy, President at jshaughnessy@kingstoncityschools.org

Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) 
Approval: Preservation notice of action
Next meeting: Thursday, January 9 at 6:30pm  AGENDA
Note:  Currently, the date on the city’s HLPC agenda says January 2, but the meeting is confirmed to be January 9. 
Contact: Mark Grunblatt, Chair at grunblattesq@aol.com

Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals
Appeal: Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) Interpretation
Next meeting: The next meeting is not yet listed on the City of Kingston’s website, though it is typically meet on the second Thursday of the month at 6:00pm. Please contact the board chair for more details.
Contact: Tony Argulewicz, Chair at aaargulewicz@aol.com

Kingston Planning Board
Approvals: Site plan, special use permit, lot line revision
Next meeting: The meeting is not listed on the City of Kingston’s website yet, though they typically meet on the third Monday of the month at 6:00pm.
Contact: Kyla DeDea, City of Kingston Planning Office at (845) 334-3955 or email kdedea@kingston-ny.gov

Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee
Approvals: Closing of a city street (Fair St); sale of land or easement conveyance (parking garage): a deviated PILOT agreement (rumored to be 25 years); and zoning amendment (MUOD)
Next meeting: Wednesday, January 15 at 6:30pm
Contact: Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Ventura-Morell, Chair at ward1@kingston-ny.gov
Read:  Rezoning Request for Kingstonian Project Slated for January 15.

Ulster County Industrial Development Corporation (UCIDA)
Approval: Deviated PILOT agreement (rumored to be 25 years).
Next meeting: TBA
Contact: Rose Woodworth, Executive Director at 845/943-4600

2. City of Kingston Charter Reform In June of this year, Alderwoman Andrea Shaut who chaired the council’s Laws and Rules Committee in 2019, introduced city charter reform. According to the Department of State’s Division of Local Government Services ‘Revising City Charters in New York State’ it explains, “Why should cities undertake charter revision? There are several reasons, generally stemming from the fact that a charter affects everything the city government does. It provides the basis for most municipal regulatory functions and for the delivery of municipal services. An obsolete charter can be responsible for many municipal problems. lf it contains provisions which are unworkable under current conditions, municipal officials may have to make a difficult choice between being responsible for inferior service delivery or inviting legal challenge for deliberate, albeit well-meaning, deviation from the law. Until such provisions are eliminated, the most competent officials will be unable to carry out their responsibilities both efficiently and legally. Even though a charter may not be so obsolete as to present dilemmas of conscience, revision may well lay the basis for improved governmental operations. A good charter should provide a clear distribution of the powers of city government and clear descriptions of the duties and powers of municipal officials.”

Now, as president of the Common Council, Shaut will be in charge of appointing leadership and membership of all council committees, which includes Laws and Rules. We hope that she, and our council as a whole, will place this matter as a top item to set forth in the coming year (s).

3. City of Kingston Comprehensive Plan Zoning. In his 2018  “State of the City” speech, Mayor Steve Noble said that his “…administration will be focusing on overhauling our Zoning Code. …I will be launching the second stage of the zoning update and will be recruiting local volunteers to delve into such complex subjects as affordable housing, urban agriculture, parking and parking waivers, form-based codes and much more. This work is necessary in order to ensure that our zoning is consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, spurs responsible economic development and preserves our community’s high quality of life.” 

Later, in early 2019, he created a Comprehensive Plan Task Force. Over the summer months, the group drafted a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) for a professional planning consultant. The selection committee of the task force is now reviewing the handful of proposals that were submitted. They will make a recommendation to take to the Common Council in early 2020.

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2020 promises to be an intense year with a presidential election.  But it is at the local level where key decisions are made.  Going forward into the new year, we wish for you to remain engaged, inquisitive and fearless.