Early voting has begun in a closed Democratic primary election contest in Kingston. It includes a citywide Mayoral race and seats in Wards 1 and 4.
In all of Ulster County, those who can vote early in the June primary include (as per the Ulster County Board of Elections): All registered Democrats in: Shandaken, Woodstock, Saugerties, Kingston, New Paltz, Gardiner and Hurley; All registered Republicans in: Shawangunk; All registered Working Families Party in: Saugerties.
If your municipality is not listed, it’s because there is not more than one candidate seeking a spot on the ballot for any given party during the General Election ballot in November.
Here are a few helpful key questions and answers to help you during this primary season. Get out and vote!
What is a primary election? In a primary election, each political party selects its candidates to run for office during the general election in November. The candidates who get the highest number of votes in the primary election go on to run in the general election.
Can anyone vote in a “closed” primary? During a closed primary, only voters registered with that party can take part and vote.
Do I have a primary to vote in? Not all election districts have a primary. If there is not more than one person trying to seek a particular party line on the general election ballot, there would not be a primary.
What if I am not registered in the party that I want to cast a vote in? In NYS, as a current, registered voter, you must have changed your party affiliation by Feb 12 to the party you want to vote with. If that is not done, you will not be registered with that party and you cannot vote because in NYS primaries are closed.
Can I vote for a person if I do not live in that municipality in a primary election? A voter may only vote within their local voting district for any election.
Can I register today and vote? NYS currently does not have same day registration. This year, that was only available on June 17 as the last day to register as a NEW voter. Under the current law, only on that one day could you register and vote.
What happens if I am not in the voter rolls and I did register to vote? You can vote by affidavit ballot, which is then counted by the Board of Elections. If you have met the criteria to vote after their investigation your vote will be counted. If your registration does not fit the criteria, it cannot be counted. The BOE will then send you a letter explaining why so you can correct it for the next election.
Why are there no referendums on the ballot? Referendums appear on the ballot in General Elections in November and not during a primary contest.
Why would I not have a ballot to vote on? In the city of Kingston, there is a citywide democratic primary for Mayor. That means that every registered democrat can vote during this primary election. If you live in Wards 1 and 4, your ballot will include a primary contest for your democratic representative on the Kingston common council.
Photo credits: Kevin Smith, Woodstock Land Conservancy 8/24/22
By Rebecca Martin
Cooper Lake is located in the Town of Woodstock and is the largest natural lake in the Catskill Mountains. It stores water from the Mink Hollow Stream in addition to water that reaches the lake from its nearly 9 square-mile watershed.
It is also the City of Kingston’s primary drinking water source.
The City of Kingston Water Department was founded on May 27, 1895 by a special act of the New York State Legislature to provide potable water to the residents of the City of Kingston. It is a financially and administratively independent department within the City of Kingston funded by drinking water users (and not tax dollars) and is governed by the Board of Water Commissioners. The Board is a continuously sitting body and each member is appointed to a five (5) year term by the Mayor. The Mayor is also a voting member of the Board and the Kingston Common Council assigns a liaison in January of each year to monitor their business.
Our area is in the midst of a drought. At the same time, important dam construction at Cooper Lake is underway in order to bring the dam into compliance to meet the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regulations. It’s a project that’s been in the works for many years.
At times like these, Kingston is fortunate to have a secondary drinking water source – the Ashokan Reservoir. Many communities that I work with haven’t got a plan B. Although the infrastructure is not yet connected, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has run pipes under Route 28 at Basin Road and part way down Sawkill so that the Kingston Water Department would be able to tap into the reservoir if they ever needed to. They never have – until now.
In the early 2000’s, the Town of Ulster signed a long standing agreement to purchase 700,000 gallons per day (GPD) whether they used all of it or not from the Kingston Water Department making them one of our largest drinking water users. That agreement was recently brought to a halt because of the seriousness of the drought. Now the town is working to provide Kingston with 200,000 GPD to help us through this critical time, even when they are also experiencing drought conditions and cut-backs. The residents in the Town of Ulster deserve our gratitude.
Kingston Water Department and “surplus water”
Nearly 10 years ago, the City of Kingston was on the brink of selling 1.75 million GPD of our municipal drinking water supply to the California based company Niagara Bottling at Tech City in the Town of Ulster. Had they succeeded, they would have secured their first large drinking water bottling facility in our region and would have taken every drop for all the years they were here to bottle and to sell. For those following the changes at the Tech City site, Niagara would have likely impacted the recent trajectory of any progress seen today. And given Niagara’s track record, we might have been in a heap of trouble now. It’s one thing to negotiate with your neighbors. It’s a whole other matter to do the same during drought conditions with a corporation who have savvy lawyers and deep pockets. Luckily, with the support of many community members, organizations and elected officials, we nipped that proposal in the bud in just five months and sent Niagara packing.
Side bar: We still have Niagara Bottling on our google alert. We’ve been following them around the country for the last seven years and share information about our strategies with municipalities interested who are struggling as we were. We’ve had some success, too – in communities located in Texas and Wisconsin.
Back in 2014 when Niagara was a looming threat, we learned about Kingston’s safe yield (by definition, the safe yield of any water supply is the maximum dependable water supply that can be withdrawn continuously from a supply during a period of years in which the driest period or periods of greatest deficiency in water supply is likely to occur) being 6.1 million GPD. For Kingston’s drinking water supply, that period continues to be the drought of 1957 that lasted 3 months. Kingston’s safe yield was said to be accurate when we inquired. We were told changes were slow.
Also in 2014, community member’s concerns were said to be “hysterical”, as the City of Kingston had surplus water to sell and the East Coast was water rich. Their messaging gained no traction with us.
Here is some interesting data from old posts about droughts in the Hudson Valley:
Given the recent trends, is it time for us to take another look at our safe yield and consider climate? I think so. Although Cooper Lake was reduced 10 feet to its maximum capacity last year for important dam work, it seems clear that no one anticipated a drought a year later that would exacerbate our current situation.
Drinking Water Budgets
There is such a thing as drinking water budgets, or an accounting of all the water that flows into and out of a project area. The Kingston Water department once told us that they have one. Through our FOILs in 2014 and 2015 we never successfully acquired a copy. If our safe yield is 6.1 million GPD then we don’t want to overuse or over promise what we can deliver. A water budget keeps track of our current residential and business use and should also take into account future development project commitments.
In a report from 2007 for the proposed Hudson River Landing Development, it stated that the City of Kingston had a daily water usage of 3.28 million GPD. In 2014, we were told that that number increased to 3.5 million GPD. Where are we today? Outside of our own concerns about drought and drinking water, how does Cooper Lake’s current levels inform us about groundwater resources and the rapidly dropping water table area-wide? What about our neighbors public supply wellheads and thousands of private wells?
We’re sharing these photos – thanks to Kevin Smith of the Woodstock Land Conservancy – to illustrate that this crisis is real. The photos speak for themselves and it’s heartbreaking to see this natural waterbody in such a state. Beyond that, the water that flows through your pipes to your home or business is treated drinking water from Cooper Lake meant to keep you nourished and alive. At the very least, it’s a teaching moment. We shouldn’t ever take drinking water for granted.
Our drinking water supply levels are a real emergency. Follow the requests from City of Kingston officials and be mindful every day of how you borrow from Cooper Lake. Consider everyone and everything.
NO use of water from the KWD to fill or maintain the water level in any swimming pool.
NO use of water from the KWD to water any lawn, golf course, ornamental shrub or plant, except that water may be used to irrigate, from a hand held container only, vegetables or fruits grown for human consumption.
All air conditioning systems utilizing water from the KWD should be operated only in accordance with hourly restrictions established by the Superintendent.
All large, nonresidential water consumers must immediately reduce usage by at least 20%.
Anyone wishing to speak or to submit a written comment can email City Clerk Elisa Tinti at email@example.com (by 3pm on 2/25)
WHEN Thursday, February 25th at 6:30pm
WHY The Mayor of Kingston has requested that the Kingston Common Council transfer a city owned property to the Kingston Local Development Corporation to give to the Kingstonian project developers for their luxury housing and boutique hotel project in Uptown, Kingston.
The Kingston Common Council’s Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 25 at 6:30pm regarding a proposed transfer of city-owned property that is currently being used as a municipal parking lot and public park at 21 N. Front Street to the Kingston Local Development Corp (KLDC). The transfer would allow the KLDC to facilitate the property’s use as part of the Kingstonian, a proposed luxury housing and boutique hotel project in Kingston’s historic stockade district in Uptown, Kingston.
The public can provide testimony for the record that evening as to whether or not they have concerns about the city transferring a piece of public land currently being used for a municipal parking lot and public park to a luxury developer who has already secured tens of millions of dollars of public subsidies. It is unclear whether or not the city intends to sell the parcel or to provide it to the developers for free. Following the public hearing, the Finance Committee will vote during a special Finance Committee meeting on Monday, March 1st at 6:30pm prior to the council’s caucus at 7:00pm. It will likely move out of committee and onto the floor for a full council vote the following day on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:00pm
Thanks to a LETTERsubmitted by Victoria Polidoro on February 10, the attorney representing several Uptown Kingston building owners, please consider the following concerns in your testimony that she identified:
1. The 21 N. Front Street property is currently used as both a public parking lot and public park. In order for the City to transfer the parcel to the Kingston Local Development Corporation (KLDC), it must first find that the property is not needed for its current public purpose.
2. Regardless, as it pertains to the public park, Not-for-Profit Corporation Law prohibits the City from conveying any land that is “inalienable as a forest preserve or a parkland.” The issue of whether the Park constitutes inalienable parkland is currently pending before the Ulster County Supreme Court and any action to convey the Property before this issue is decided would open the City to further legal action.
3. It is apparent that the City is seeking to convey the Property to the KLDC in order to do what it is otherwise prohibited from doing, conveying a city-owned parking lot to a private developer for free. The City must fulfill its obligations to its taxpayers and negotiate a fair price for the Property. In doing so it would require, at minimum, an appraisal of the fair market value of the Property. The City has assessed the Property at $724,000 and its fair market value is likely significantly higher since the pandemic has caused Ulster County to have the fastest rising property values in the Country.
4. Given that the Project will actually reduce publicly available parking and frustrate the Property’s public purposes, the City cannot justifiably claim that the conveyance of the Property will be paid back in the form of public benefits. Moreover, any alleged public benefits have already been presented by the developers as the basis for grants and PILOTs worth tens of millions of dollars and zoning amendments custom-tailored to allow the Kingstonian.
If permitted, this conveyance would result in the elimination of an existing public parking lot and the construction of an inadequate replacement of those parking spaces in the form of a private parking garage. After everything the City and its residents have given and will give up to indulge the Kingstonian, the City must ensure that it receives fair compensation before handing over City-owned, publicly-utilized Property to private developers.
Next up. The closure of Fair Street Extension in Uptown Kingston for the Kingstonian project will be next on the Kingston Common Council’s list of giveaways. According to city code Chapter 355 Streets and Sidewalks, in Article XIII Procedures for Disposing of Certain Streets unlike the municipal parking lot being transferred to the KLDC, the council will need to approve the “sale” of the street. That is, unless the Mayor and his lawyers find a clever way to work around the language in the code. There has never been a more willing council.
VIEW “Finance Committee Discusses Transfer of 21 N. Front Street to Kingston Local Development Corporation (KLDC) on February 10” (KingstonCitizens.org)
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
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 tosources, 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 WEBSITEto learn how you can view their meeting and participate.
As we have recently reported, “The Kingstonian is a proposed $58 million dollar project. It promises 129 high-end units (to date, rents will range from $1,500 – $2,850), 14 affordable units (with Area Median Income (AMI) based on Ulster County, nearly ⅓ higher than the City of Kingston), a 32-room luxury boutique hotel, 9,000 square feet of retail space, and a 420 parking space complex. The developer is asking for a deviated Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement where they will pay nominal taxes for 25 years. Community members who have been following the Kingstonian project’s PILOT request have asked for more detailed financial information to understand the potential impacts (including the developer’s “trade secrets,” which are fair game for a public/private partnership). Others are up in arms that a wealthy developer who wants to create high-end housing and a luxury boutique hotel in Uptown Kingston would have the audacity to request a 25-year, 100% tax exempt PILOT agreement worth $30.6 million dollars. Nearly seven months after the SEQR process concluded (where the full value of public subsidies should have been revealed but were not), the developers finally shared their PILOT request with the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) and threatening the board that without approval of the PILOT, they would not secure the financing that they need and that the City of Kingston was at risk for the project and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant to “go away.”
Ulster County Legislative and Executive Branch throw curveball
On October 1st, Ulster County Legislator Lynn Archer appeared before the UCIDA during a Public Hearing on the proposed Kingstonian PILOT to announce that she and her colleagues were in favor of an independent, third party study of the proposed Kingstonian PILOT. “We are currently relying on the people benefitting from the project to provide the projected costs of the project without validation from an independent third party who has the knowledge of these types of complex endeavors,” she said. With the Kingstonian PILOT up for a vote in October it was a surprise and relief for a legislator to make that request. Up until that point, it seemed likely that the full legislature was poised to approve the PILOT terms even with so many outstanding concerns.
Several days later, County Executive Pat Ryan echoed those sentiments with his own press release, pledging that the county would pay for the independent cost benefit analysis. “Before a decision of this magnitude (the Kingstonian PILOT) is made, the public deserves an impartial assessment of the costs and benefits of the project. Therefore, I am calling on the project developers to disclose their financials to an independent evaluator so that we can have a full picture of the project. This level of transparency is critical given the scale and impact of the proposed PILOT agreement,” Ryan said.
On the same day of the County Executive’s announcement about his support for an independent review of the Kingstonian PILOT, a second announcement was sent from his office of a change in the Economic Development office. Tim Weidemann, who had served as Director of Innovation, was tapped as Director of Economic Development, replacing Lisa Berger who would now serve as Director of Tourism. Weidemann would coordinate the Kingstonian study on the county’s behalf with the National Development Council (NDC), a not-for-profit led by Daniel Marsh, a consultant who has a long history in the Hudson Valley.
When news hit about the selection of the NDC and Marsh in particular, some were concerned as to whether the organization could be impartial. Having served in a number of positions in Orange County, Marsh had also served as a consultant to the Kingston’s Local Development Council (KLDC) during the recent Gallo administration when Brad Jordan, one of the principal Kingstonian developers, was the council’s secretary.
The study was originally meant to be ready in time for the October 20th Ulster County Legislature Ways and Means Committee meeting and Kingstonian PILOT vote, and would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 – 15k, money that the county said it hoped would be reimbursed (by the developer, we presume). The promise for a study to examine the PILOT terms encouraged all of the other involved agencies to table their votes that month (that included the full legislature, Board of Education (BOE) and UCIDA) until the study was complete and each body had had the time to review it.
There has been some confusion about the process for the proposed Kingstonian deviated PILOT, regarding whether or not the agencies (the Common Council, City of Kingston School District Board of Education (KSCD), and Ulster County Legislature (UCL)) must all agree on the PILOT terms in order for it to proceed. The source of that confusion stems from an expedient decision by the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) to change its rules in ways that benefit the Kingstonian.
Rose Woodworth, CEO of the UCIDA clarified the question about the process and the Kingstonian deviated PILOT in a recent email:
In general, the UCIDA has the power to grant PILOT Agreements (and real property tax abatements).
In connection with the granting of tax abatements, the UCIDA has adopted a Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (the “UTEP”). Under the UTEP, the UCIDA may grant certain levels of real property tax abatements to project applicants.
As has been described both in the IDA Application and in media reports regarding the Kingstonian Project, the real property tax abatement being requested by the project applicant is a deviation from the normal real property tax abatement provided in the UTEP.
As provided in the UTEP, in cases of deviations the UCIDA is subject to the following requirements:
(D) Review by Agency with Affected Tax Jurisdictions. Before the Agency shall enter into a PILOT Agreement that deviates from the policy set forth herein, the Agency shall (1) notify each affected Tax Jurisdiction in accordance with Section 8(A)(2) hereof, and (2) attempt to obtain the written consent of all the affected Tax Jurisdictions to such deviation. In the event that the Agency is not able to obtain the consents of all the affected Tax Jurisdictions to such deviation, the Agency may enter into such a PILOT Agreement that deviates from the policy set forth herein without the consents of such affected Tax Jurisdictions. The provisions of this Section 8(D) shall not apply in situations where the Agency holds title to property for its own account.
“As noted in the above excerpt from the UTEP, the Agency is obligated to get the local approvals regarding the PILOT deviation. And, as noted in the excerpted language, the UCIDA could, if it is so determined, move forward without the consents of the local jurisdictions.“
In other words, even if the three impacted agencies –Kingston’s Common Council, KCSD and UCL — don’t all agree to support the PILOT and its substantial tax breaks for the developer, the UCIDA may proceed to approve this anomalous PILOT request on their own. In short, the UCIDA – an appointed and democratically unaccountable body – may make a lone decision to approve the PILOT without the consent of all of the impacted tax jurisdictions like the School Board.
Back in July, 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. The Polidoro letter informed the IDA that the law did not authorize them to grant the PILOT 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.“
With new information from the Polidoro letter, the IDA appeared to hastily approve a revised policy change a month later on August 12 authorizing their agency to grant tax breaks to “any housing project, or any mixed-use project that includes a housing or residential component, that has received the prior approval from the governing board of Ulster County and each town, village, city and school district in which the housing project is located.”
The UCIDA’s recent process change is troubling for several reasons worth analyzing. Through this policy change, the UCIDA has empowered and entrusted itself to unilaterally give away $30 million to wealthy real estate developers during a pandemic irrespective of the judgements of the very elected officials representing the jurisdictions impacted by the subsidy. The IDA itself is an appointed body and, therefore, democratically unaccountable, making their rule changes and subsidy granting power all the more offensive to the principle of procedural fairness. The damage done to due process by public officials who pledge to uphold the public interests is deeply corrosive, undermining a sense of trust at the core of good local government. We should demand more from those who represent us. At a minimum, citizens should expect that governing rules are clear, consistent and fair to all parties. Any changes to procedure should never benefit one party over another in the middle of a highly contentious process.
To make matters worse, the UCIDA has scheduled their required public hearing on the proposed Kingstonian PILOT, on October 1st, prior to the KCSD vote, which may take place on October 7 (or the 21). The UCIDA’s public hearing is also scheduled ahead of the UCL vote on October 20. By scheduling the public hearing before the other agencies (KCSD and UCL), the UCIDA prevents concerned taxpayers from addressing their members should either of the two remaining agencies reject the PILOT agreement for the Kingstonian. The UCIDA members have effectively foreclosed public comment following the votes of those other affected agencies, precluding an opportunity for the public to question them and advocate for fairness.
Thursday, October 1st at 7:00pm The Ulster County IDA public hearing on the Kingstonian PILOT will occur remotely. Please LIKE our facebook event to learn more about how you can participate.
The developer is asking for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement where they will pay nominal taxes for 25 years; a subsidy worth approximately $30.6M, in exchange for a temperature controlled parking garage that will primarily serve its high end tenants and luxury boutique hotel guests.
Over and over again, the Mayor of Kingston, members of the Common Council and the developers tell us that Kingston needs this parking garage and that, with a PILOT, it could be built at “no cost to taxpayers.” If a PILOT allows a developer to defer their real mortgage, property, school and sales tax, how does their project come at no cost?
The City of Kingston missed both of its opportunities to request an independent, external analysis of the Kingstonian developers’ economic assumptions. The first came during the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) that ended last December and the second during the recent common council special finance committee meeting in July. The developers’ revenues which they call ‘trade secrets’ were not disclosed to the public, when the PILOT terms were approved by the full council in August. The public needs to know the profit margin or the “trade secrets” in order to determine whether to approve the PILOT.
With two agencies still left to vote on the council’s PILOT terms, the developer is making another attempt to persuade members of the Board of Education (BOE) and Ulster County Legislature (UCL) to support the PILOT, with a public action form letter crafted without any real substance. “The PILOT will provide tax relief and public benefit at no cost to taxpayers.” There it is again. “No cost to taxpayers.” The developer also claims that “…they have worked with Kingston City officials and the IDA Board to ensure that the dollar value of the public benefits of the Kingstonian outweigh the PILOT at zero cost to taxpayers.” But without an independent, external analysis to review their economic assumptions, the tax paying residents of the City of Kingston and Ulster County will never know.
In their letter, the developer claims “…that the benefits of the project include twice the public parking, 129 market rate apartments, 14 affordable apartments, 30 hotel rooms (when it is actually 32), an outdoor public pedestrian plaza/gathering space, long-desired public restrooms, 300 + new consumers to the marketplace offering immediate relief to the business district and generating much needed sales, occupancy, and property tax revenue, and an estimated 153 new jobs.” But the developer still isn’t able to pin down the number of parking spots they need for this project, even though the City of Kingston’s zoning code says that nearly 313 of their 420 newly created parking spots will be required to serve their high-end apartment tenants and luxury boutique hotel guests leaving us with approximately 107 public parking spots, fewer than the 144 parking spots that we currently have now. Even with a waiver to allow them to provide less, there will now be an influx of people – tenants, hotel clients, uptown businesses and residents all vying for parking. They assert that the overflow can park across Schwenk Drive if their garage is full. So why is the public being asked to fund a parking garage when they may be losing parking spaces, charged higher fees and possibly not able to find a spot to park in the temperature controlled lot anyway.
As for affordable housing, the 14-units that various politicians claim credit for was due to the hard work of advocates that pressed the matter and won. The developer ended up making the concession but expanded the size of their complex, making their original 129-unit project even larger, with a whopping 143-units in the center of Kingston’s historic uptown. As reported earlier, it appears that the developers are following the Area Median Income (AMI) not for the City of Kingston ($48,186) but for all of Ulster County ($69,539) that could make those starting rents nearly ⅓ higher.
As for jobs, they promised 40 full time positions in their application. However, 84% of them were based on a single person’s salary, at $20.73 per hour. This is insufficient income for anyone raising a child, and certainly not enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the Kingstonian (or nearly anywhere else in Kingston.)
The developer claims that “…this project comes at an opportune time when our local economy is in need of job creation, both affordable and market rate housing, and sales tax revenue. The project also creates an immediate economic boost from the construction phase and revenue from the new taxes that will be generated.” But we know that the PILOT request is coming at the worst possible time, in the midst of a global pandemic, and when our local, county, and state economic futures are unclear. In early summer, the City of Kingston, in preparation for a hit to their budget, began furloughing and cutting some of its workers. Tax revenue for Ulster County is unknown and the state may hold back state aid for the City of Kingston School District by 20%, while residents’ school tax bills have increased. Our Mayor and Common Council endorsed the loss of revenue at one of the worst economic moments in the City’s history without requesting an independent, external analysis to review the developers economic assumptions to understand whether or not the immediate or long term benefits are worth the PILOT investment.
The developer says that “…this project was initiated by the City of Kingston, and is a true partnership between the City, School, County, State and the citizens of our community and that without this partnership the project is not fiscally feasible and the taxpayers will lose the multitude of community benefits and added revenues it brings.” But in our opinion, a true partnership includes a developer who stands to make a windfall in the City of Kingston paying their fair share of taxes. Some community members have asked if it’s even wise for a project to proceed when a project like this isn’t ‘fiscally feasible’ without a $30.6 million dollar PILOT. The proclaimed community benefits are a temperature controlled parking garage (that the developer needs more than we do to serve their high-end apartment tenants and luxury boutique hotel guests), a couple of public bathrooms, a pedestrian plaza with a water feature, an internship to train their future $15.00 per hour wage workers and a walkway over Schwenk Drive. Is that the way we want to invest our hard earned, finite tax dollars?
As a public/private partnership, we think our community deserves more information before it decides on the $30.6 million dollar PILOT. We encourage our elected officials at the BOE and UCL to be responsible and request that an independent, external analysis is performed to review the Kingstonian’s economic assumptions to be reviewed in turn by alltax paying residents living in the City of Kingston and Ulster County.
READ: The Kingstonian Project will require 343.5 parking spaces per Kingston’s zoning code
CALL TO ACTION:
We encourage all community members to draft their own letters to decision makers of the Kingstonian PILOT asking for an independent, external analysis of the Kingstonian’s economic assumptions and the feasibility of a $30.6 million dollar PILOT.
“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 LINKto join us and to learn what you can do.
Or, visit our FACEBOOK EVENTfor 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.
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 September19 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.
On January 25th, Kevin Gilfeather announced his retirement as Superintendent of Kingston’s Parks & Recreation Department after 23 ½ years in the position. Just six days later, Mayor Steve Noble, who for many years worked under Gilfeather as one of two environmental educators, submitted the following communication to the President of the Common Council with the hope of getting special business added to its February agenda. It read:
Dear President Shaut,
With the impending retirement of Kevin Gilfeather, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, I have been working with my staff to develop a long-term plan that supports the continued operations of our incredible parks and programming and identifies opportunities for improvement. As part of this process, I have been in discussion with not only the leadership of Parks and Recreation, but also of the Department of Public Works. While each Department serves critical and unique functions, I believe wholeheartedly that these departments can and should work closer together for the benefit of our community. By collaborating together, we have the opportunity to improve our system so that the services to our community and taxpayers are delivered in an economical, efficient and sustainable manner. I am respectfully requesting that this matter be referred to both the Finance and Laws and Rules Committees. I will be in attendance at both of these meetings to present my proposal and answer any questions the Council may have. Additional documents supporting this proposal will be sent under separate cover, prior to these meetings, so that the Council members may familiarize themselves.
Mayors and citizens alike can submit communications, by letter or email, to the Common Council requesting that it take up a certain issue. From stop signs to Department requests, the Council President will assign the matter to whichever Council Committee she deems appropriate. In Kingston, these communications are made publicly available as hyperlinks in the online agenda for the Council’s regular monthly meeting. This helps the public to anticipate forthcoming issues that may be taken up by the Common Council.
In this case, the Mayor’s communication arrived without any detail as to what he had in mind, only the promise that “additional documents supporting this proposal will be sent under separate cover, prior to these meetings, so that the Council members may familiarize themselves” and a request to be added to both the Finance and Laws & Rules Committee agendas.
Then, late in the afternoon of the following day, the Mayor got more specific in a press release, announcing his plans to “integrate leadership teams” of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Parks & Recreation Department by creating two new positions and expanding the role of the current Superintendent of DPW. Serving as the new Deputy Superintendent of Environmental Services would be his wife, Julie Noble, who would be “provisionally selected” until she sits for a New York State civil service examination. According to a recentnews article, Julie Noble’s new salary would rise by as much as $23,000. The Mayor’s plan also calls for the creation of a new Recreation Director position, which would be filled by his former Confidential Secretary. (Please see clarification below)
The Mayor’s announcement occurred before the Council knew the details of his proposal. His press release was likely news to most of them, as it was to the public.
The Mayor’s rush to accomplish his desired Department restructuring creates a messy situation for everyone. It might very well jeopardize a possibly sensible idea. Examining its merit is the responsibility of the Common Council, beginning with its Laws & Rules Committee and later, the Finance Committee. According to Kingston’s Charter, reorganizing Departments calls for a local law process.
The most perplexing part of this whole thing is the Mayor’s intention to fill the new positions with a family member and a friend—the very definition of nepotism. The Deputy Superintendent of Environmental Services, a position intended for Julie Noble, would report to the Superintendent of Public Works, who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor without any protections in place for his own job. If he takes issue with the Mayor’s wife down the road, who is more likely to have the Mayor’s ear? Needless to say, this structure creates a conflict of interest and could violate the City of Kingston’s ethics law (see 49-3 Standards of Conduct).
We reached out to Council President Shaut today to ask if the Council had received any more information outside of the posted agenda packet from last evening’s Council meeting on the Mayor’s proposal and whether or not the item would be sent to two Council Committees at once.
“The Mayor has not submitted any more detail to the Council at this time. The Mayor did request the communication to be sent to both the Finance Committee and Laws & Rules Committee for February,” wrote Shaut. “Originally, I did assign it to both Committees for the month; however, after learning more about his request and the fact that it does need to be a local law process, I have determined it would be inappropriate to discuss at Finance before it is vetted by Laws & Rules.”
Shaut also included her response to the Mayor’s communication. “After gathering more information on the specific process that will need to take place with the Council regarding your communication of a collaboration between DPW and Parks & Rec, I am taking off the communication to the Finance & Audit Committee for the month of February. According to our Charter, restructuring departments can only happen through a local law by the Common Council. The appropriate Committee to address your proposal first would be Laws & Rules. The Finance Committee’s decisions will happen only once, and if, the Local Law is shaped.”
The Council President’s clarity in these communications helps to outline the proper process that should be followed.
City government is not a Mayor’s oyster. It belongs to the public, and a good government has a strong system of checks and balances to protect the public interest. In this case, the merging of Departments, the immediate creation and filling of new positions, and the reorganization of current DPW staff should be placed on hold until after the Common Council has had the opportunity to weigh the Mayor’s proposal and hear from the public.
Clarification: Although the executive branch has not provided more detail about plans to restructure the DPW and Parks & Recreation, we have learned in the meantime that Lynsey Timbrouck who would be hired as the Director of Recreation took the civil service exam in 2018, prior to any knowledge of Gilfeather’s plans to retire. On the exam, she scored a 90, making her 2nd on the list.
A comprehensive plan is a powerful document in New York State that creates a framework for making importantdecisions while guiding growth and development. Kingston’s own plan, adopted by the Common Council in April 2016, quite forcefully calls for an affordable housing requirement in new developments:
“Strategy 1.1.2: Require affordable housing for any new or expanded residential building or development project. The City should consider expanding the number of projects that must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing. Currently, affordable housing is only required for projects taking advantage of the mixed-use overlay district provisions.” (p. 21, Kingston 2025)
“Housing development in the Stockade Business District (SBD) has been limited, and a significant percentage of renters in the SBD and surrounding area are cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs.” (Executive Summary of the City of Kingston’s 2017 DRI application).
However, in February of 2019, the developers of the Kingstonian Project submitted an application that includes 129 market-rate residential units in the Stockade District. The mandate for affordable housing that is outlined in Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan seems to be ignored with this substantial project.
A recent Kingston Times article reported a claim by a member of the Kingstonian development team: “Dennis Larios is a civil engineer with long experience in Kingston. He’s currently working with JM Development Group on the Kingstonian project. Earlier this month, in a Facebook post, Larios suggested that his clients would likely walk away from the project if the planning board issues a “positive declaration of environmental significance.”
A day later, the Daily Freeman reported that a second member of the Kingstonian development team suggested that a determination of significance (and likely a negative declaration) would not be made for a very long time, as they had not yet provided the lead agency with all of the necessary information.
Attorney Michael Moriello said in a statement, “It is beyond presumptuous for these opponents to attempt to subvert the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review process by insisting upon a positive declaration of environmental significance before any potentially large impacts have had an opportunity to be identified and mitigated….Because we intend to follow all environmental review requirements and as we have not yet provided all of the necessary information and studies, we do not anticipate a determination of significance under SEQRA for (a) fairly lengthy period of time….we are confident that we will ultimately obtain a negative declaration of environmental significance so that the vast majority of city residents, visitors and business owners will ultimately benefit from the environmental review and the Kingstonian’s attendant economic, cultural and employment benefits.”
When SEQR begins, a series of specific actions are to take place starting with a 30-day window for the involved agencies to approve or deny the request for lead agency. An involved agency may also “state their interests and concerns regarding selection of lead agency and potential impacts of the overall action” (SEQR handbook, page 66, item #5). That’s exactly what the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission has done as a responsible involved agency along with three interested State agencies which submitted comments to the Kingston Planning Board within the 30-day window for lead agency selection or the 20-day window for determination of significance which I describe next.
Good evening everyone and thank you for coming tonight. I want to thank President Noble and my colleagues of the Common Council for giving me the opportunity to share the State of the City. I also want to recognize our elected officials with us tonight.
In addition, I want to acknowledge the members of our local media reporting here tonight. You have always had a tough job, but now, more than ever, we need journalists.
Our city is growing. And growth can sound scary sometimes. It might seem easier to remain still, to keep things the way they’ve always been. It may feel more comfortable to ignore new ideas and to be surrounded by people who look and think alike. But that’s how cities crumble. We have far too much at stake to be lulled into complacency. Not when we’ve come this far. I believe wholeheartedly that we can continue to move forward while still holding on to all that makes Kingston special. Our city has strong roots- we were made to grow.
Smart growth is possible, especially in a city as capable and committed as Kingston. We have a diverse, creative and engaged community, eager to build a successful city where everyone can prosper. We’re building new sidewalks, fixing underground utilities, improving our public transportation, creating socially responsible and progressive policies, preserving our historic assets, protecting our natural resources, and making the city’s largest investment into quality housing in decades.
There is no doubt- the state of our city is strong.
Today, Mayor Steve Noble and DPW Superintendent Ed Norman met with the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) requesting a short-term extension from single-stream recycling to dual stream recycling through June 30, 2019. It appears some headway was made – and we appreciate everyone’s efforts.
You can review the full discussion below thanks to The Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.
VIEW: “Kingston Residents Can Mix Recyclables Beyond Jan. 1, 2019” in the Daily Freeman