Planning Board sees no potential impact on character of Stockade District by Kingstonian Project (with video)

Rendering by Mackenzie Architects.

By Marissa Marvelli

Since the first renderings of the proposed Kingstonian project were released in late 2017, many citizens have expressed strong concerns about how the unprecedentedly large mixed-use development would impact the character and integrity of the Stockade Historic District. At over 218,000 gross square feet spread across two buildings containing 143 units of housing, a 32-room hotel, 8,000 square feet of retail space and a new pedestrian plaza, all of which is piled on top of a parking garage, the development will dwarf all other buildings in the small district. Numerous of you spoke at hearings and submitted comments requesting that the Kingston Planning Board take a “hard look” at this potential impact with the hope that its adverse effects could be mitigated through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. Historic resources and “community character” are included in the definition of “environment” in SEQR. 

“Is the proposed action inconsistent with the predominant architectural scale and character?” Without hesitation, the Planning Board unanimously agreed that the development will have little or no impact on the character of the Stockade District. 

This question was among the dozens of questions that the Board answered in the course of reviewing Part 2 of the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for the SEQR process at their special meeting on November 6. Oddly, the form was completed by the applicant instead of by the lead agency, the Planning Board, as SEQR rules require. By having the applicant do the agency’s homework for them, the Planning Board effectively unburdened themselves of applying critical thought to the questions at hand. Instead, they simply affirmed or tweaked the applicant’s assumptions about their project’s impact—whether the individual impacts will be small or moderate to large.

The aforementioned question regarding character is one of seven raised in section 18 of the Part 2 form which evaluates impacts to community character. The EAF Workbook defines community character as “all the man-made and natural features of the area. It includes the visual character of a town, village, or city, and its visual landscape; but also includes the buildings and structures and their uses, the natural environment, activities, town services, and local policies that are in place. These combine to create a sense of place or character that defines the area. Changes to the type and intensity of land use, housing, public services, aesthetic quality, and to the balance between residential and commercial uses can all change community character. Most proposed actions will result in some change in community character.”

In the Planning Board’s unanimous opinion, none of the resources mentioned above will be impacted by the Kingstonian. How they reached this conclusion without at least defining the existing community character is perplexing. It is like a jury rendering a not guilty verdict without discussing the evidence. 

Continued below

From the Full Environmental Assessment Form Workbook

a. The proposed action may replace or eliminate existing facilities, structures, or areas of historic importance to the community.
Community character is, in part, influenced by the buildings and structures that exist in a community. Historic structures are especially influential on the character of the built environment. Whenever existing buildings and structures are replaced or removed, the character of the street, neighborhood, district or entire community can change. For example, replacing a traditional three-story main street structure having parking in the rear with a modern concrete block structure having parking the front could significantly change the character of the street. In some communities the character is also influenced by entire blocks, streets, or neighborhoods that may be altered by a project. Removal or replacement can significantly change the function, look, and economics of an area.

— What specific buildings or structures are to be replaced or eliminated? If so, what is proposed in its place?
— Is the new structure of similar scale, siting, design, and function?
— Is there a designated historic district impacted? How will that change?
— Will the proposed project change the ratio of street width to building height? For example, are narrow streets having buildings set close to the road being replaced by wider streets with buildings having deep front setbacks?

Will there be an impact?
If no facilities, structures or areas of historic importance to the community are being replaced or eliminated, then there will be no related impacts. However, many proposed actions will result in some change in community character. There are probably few that will result in no change at all. Examples of actions that may not affect community character include passage of a local law that is not related to land use, or other discretionary actions that require SEQR but that do not result in building or development. Another example may be infill development that is consistent with the style and character of the neighborhood. Check ‘No, or small impact may occur.

Small Impact:
A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:
— The visual character of the area is changed in a minor way but is generally consistent in the design, placement, size, streetscape, intensity and architecture of the neighborhood or community.
— The balance between retail commercial uses and residential uses does not change in a significant way.
— The proposed project is a land use that is similar to others that can be found in the neighborhood or area.

Moderate to Large Impact:
A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:
— The proposed project moderately or significantly changes the visual character of the area.
— The proposed project is of a larger scale than currently exists in the area.
— New building design, lot layout, streetscapes, or intensity of use is in sharp contrast to that which exists.
— The project introduces a land use that is inconsistent or in sharp contrast with surrounding land uses.
— The project introduces odors, lights, noise, or traffic to an area in a way that is different than currently exists.

It was not as if the Planning Board was trying to avoid identifying moderate to large impacts altogether. With relation to construction grading and demolition, stormwater runoff, visual impact on aesthetic resources, and impact on archaeological resources, they appeared comfortable stating that the project may have moderate to large impacts.

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

Such conclusions are denialist. 

They ignore the concerns that were expressed by two preservation agencies: the New York State Historic Preservation Office and Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) before it was gutted. (Soon after raising their concerns in March, two members of the HLPC—a licensed architect and myself, a professional preservationist—were removed by Mayor Steve Noble and replaced with less experienced individuals. Two other HLPC members resigned in protest of his action.) They also ignore the many of you who have expressed similar concerns in testimony at meetings and written comments.

By concluding that this development poses little or no impact on the character of the district, the Planning Board has shut down the opportunity to assess, debate, and potentially mitigate it beyond the tiny tweaks to the architecture that the now weakened HLPC may request in its routine review.

After going through the EAF Part 2 form, the Planning Board discussed their calendar of meetings. Board member Robert Jacobsen suggested that they schedule another public hearing on this project at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday November 18 so that they can show that there are “no backroom deals” as if another hearing is supposed to convince citizens that this has been a transparent and inclusive process. Apparently the developers of the Kingstonian also desire this hearing. 

They tentatively scheduled a discussion of the EAF Part 3 on Monday December 2 in which they will decide if the moderate-to-large impacts identified are significant, whether impacts will be avoided or substantially mitigated, and whether or not to require an environmental impact statement. 

What can you do? While the Planning Board’s final decision has seemed predetermined from the very beginning of this review process, residents can attend the public hearing on the Kingstonian project at the upcoming Planning Board meeting on November 18 at 6:00pm at Kingston City Hall (Council Chambers). The Planning Board is requesting input as it pertains to the 14 affordable units and the potential environmental impacts, however, according to the agenda, public comment made that evening will not be included in the official record of the review process for this project.  

Therefore we suggest that you use this opportunity to let the Planning Board know what you think about their “transparent and inclusive” environmental review process, as this will probably be the final public hearing for the Kingstonian project before the board makes a determination, most likely in December.

Marissa Marvelli is a historic preservation specialist.

Part one of two – Kingstonian Special Meeting 11/6/19

2:35  Public comment by Sarah Wenk (Kingston resident), who expressed concerns about the EAF not having been amended to reflect all of the changes.

7:25  Kingstonian development team representative Joe Bonura, Jr. outlines the changes to the Kingstonian project. “We’ve been trying to find ways to include affordable housing from the beginning.”

8:20   Bonura: “We added a story to the building that has only seven units…the other seven units were made out of converting existing units inside.”

12:45  Frank A. Filiciotto, PE, of Creighton Manning discusses traffic studies and impacts.  

DOCUMENT:  Creighton Manning response to traffic comments for The Kingstonian.

DOCUMENT: Creighton Manning Updated Trip Generation Evaluation for The Kingstonian.

16:49  Kingstonian engineer consultant Dennis Larios on water and sewer impacts. 

20:39  Bonura explains that they are making the project sustainable by including efficient toilets, showers and sinks.

21:09  Larios discusses drinking water, water use, visual impact and stormwater. 

22:47  Planning Board chair Wayne Platt asks if the board received results from their  independent traffic studies consultant.

23:40   Platt: “Even though it’s not a requirement under zoning, how/why did you arrive to include affordable housing into your project?”

“…when we were originally asked to look at this project…affordable housing, while important, wasn’t as important as it is now.”
“…as we got the architecture to the point where we thought, ‘we’re there’, we came to the epiphany where we realized affordable housing was really important.”
“…we are reaching into our pockets to make the affordable units possible.”

30:20  Platt: “Explain the impact of the additional units to the parking garage.”

“We are not reserving any more spaces for the new units. There will be 129 parking spots for the project. We foresee the need for people moving into this building not needing as many cars (due to proximity to services)…”

32:30  Bonura provides a unit count: (9) studios, (65) 1-bedrooms, (60) 2-bedrooms, and (10) 3-bedrooms.   

33:00  Planning Board member Jacobson asks about the closing of Fair Street.

34:15  Michael Moriello, the attorney for the applicant, argues that the EAF Part 1 does not need to be amended to reflect changes to the project scope.

35:50  Moriello presents a “submittal” to the Planning Board that addresses the site plan and special use permit impacts as per Kingston’s zoning. “Meld themselves with the SEQR issue.”

37:30  Bonura: “Our target market for this building are seniors… Seniors often drive less, use fewer vehicles or don’t have a vehicle at all. …Parking rates will match the City’s.”

42:06  City Planning Director Suzanne Cahill begins reading the EAF Part 2 form line by line to review the applicant’s opinion on individual impacts, whether they will be small or moderate/large.

EAF Part 2 for Kingstonian Project:

1.  Impact on Land

a. The proposed action may involve construction on land where depth to water table is less than 3 feet.
No/Small impact

b. The proposed action may involve construction on slopes of 15% or greater.
Moderate / Large

c. The proposed action may involve construction on land where bedrock is exposed, or generally within 5 feet of existing ground surface.
No / Small Impact

d. The proposed action may involve the excavation and removal of more than 1,000 tons of natural material.
No / Small impact

e. The proposed action may involve construction that continues for more than one year or in multiple phases.
Moderate / Large Impact   

f. The proposed action may result in increased erosion, whether from physical disturbance or vegetation removal (including from treatment by herbicides).
Small / Moderate

g. The proposed action is, or may be, located within a Coastal Erosion hazard area.
No / Small

h. Other impacts: Construction, grading and demolition.
The applicant marked: No / Small. The Planning Department disagreed: Moderate / Large

2. Impact on Geological Features

The proposed action may result in the modification or destruction of, or inhibit  access to, any unique or unusual land forms on the site.
 No / Small (Skip) 

3. Impacts on Surface Water

 a. The proposed action may create a new water body.
No / Small

 b. The proposed action may result in an increase or decrease of over 10% or more than a 10 acre increase or decrease in the surface area of any body of water.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may involve dredging more than 100 cubic yards of material from a wetland or water body.
No / Small

d. The proposed action may involve construction within or adjoining a freshwater or tidal wetland, or in the bed or banks of any other water body.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may create turbidity in a waterbody, either from upland erosion, runoff or by disturbing bottom sediments.
No / Small

 f. The proposed action may include construction of one or more intake(s) for withdrawal of water from surface water.    
No / Small

g. The proposed action may include construction of one or more outfall(s) for discharge of wastewater to surface water(s).
No / Small  

h. The proposed action may cause soil erosion, or otherwise create a source of stormwater discharge that may lead to siltation or other degradation of receiving water bodies. (Esopus Creek)
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Board: Moderate / Large. The applicant’s stormwater study will be appended to the form to allow it to go back to ‘No/Small’ impact.

i. The proposed action may affect the water quality of any water bodies within or downstream of the site of the proposed action.
No / Small Impact

 j. The proposed action may involve the application of pesticides or herbicides in or around any water body.
No / Small Impact

k. The proposed action may require the construction of new, or expansion of existing, wastewater treatment facilities.
No / Small

4. Impact on Groundwater

a. The proposed action may require new water supply wells, or create additional demand on supplies from existing water supply wells.

b. Water supply demand from the proposed action may exceed safe and sustainable withdrawal capacity rate of the local supply or aquifer.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may allow or result in residential uses in areas without water and sewer services.

d. The proposed action may include or require wastewater discharged to groundwater.

e. The proposed action may result in the construction of water supply wells in locations where groundwater is, or is suspected to be contaminated.

f. The proposed action may require the bulk storage of petroleum or chemical products over ground water or an aquifer.

g. The proposed action may involve the commercial application of pesticides within 100 feet of potable drinking water or irrigation sources.

h. Other impacts

5. Impact on Flooding

a. The proposed action may result in development in a designated floodway.
No / Small

b. The proposed action may result in development within a 100 year floodplain.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may result in development within a 500 year floodplain.
Moderate / Large.  

Part two of two – Kingstonian Special Meeting 11/6/19

(Continued from above)

d. The proposed action may result in, or require, modification of existing drainage patterns.
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Department: Moderate / Large. Project engineer Dennis Larios thinks it’s small. After a vote, Planning Board: No / Small

e. The proposed action may change flood water flows that contribute to flooding.
No / Small

f. If there is a dam located on the site of the proposed action, is the dam in need of repair, or upgrade?
No / Small

6. Impacts on Air

No / Small (Skip)

7. Impact on Plants and Animals

a. The proposed action may cause reduction in population or loss of individuals of any threatened or endangered species, as listed by New York State or the Federal government, that use the site, or are found on, over, or near the site.
No / Small. Attach survey provided to us for flora/fauna. 

b. The proposed action may result in a reduction or degradation of any habitat used by any rare, threatened or endangered species, as listed by New York State or the federal government.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may cause reduction in population, or loss of individuals, of any species of special concern or conservation need, as listed by New York State or the Federal government, that use the site, or are found on, over, or near the site.
No / Small

d. The proposed action may result in a reduction or degradation of any habitat used by any species of special concern and conservation need, as listed by New York State or the Federal government.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may diminish the capacity of a registered National Natural Landmark.
No / Small

f. The proposed action may result in the removal of, or ground disturbance in, any portion of a designated significant natural community.
No / Small

g. The proposed action may substantially interfere with nesting/breeding, foraging, or over-wintering habitat for the predominant species that occupy or use the project site.
No / Small

h. The proposed action requires the conversion of more than 10 acres of forest, grassland or any other regionally or locally important habitat.
No / Small

i. Proposed action (commercial, industrial or recreational projects, only) involves use of herbicides or pesticides.
No / Small

j. Other impacts: wildlife displacement and street trees.
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Department says their reports will address it.

8. Impact on Agricultural Resources

No / Small (Skip)

9. Impact on Aesthetic Resources

The land use of the proposed action are obviously different from, or are in sharp contrast to, current land use patterns between the proposed project and a scenic or aesthetic resource. 

a. Proposed action may be visible from any officially designated federal, state, or local scenic or aesthetic resource. (Senate House and the Stockade Historic District)
Moderate / Large

b. The proposed action may result in the obstruction, elimination or significant screening of one or more officially designated scenic views.
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Department: Moderate / large. Larios: “What is an officially designated view? We are obstructing the view coming down Wall Street to the foothills, but nothing designated. ” Planning Board: No / Small

c. The proposed action may be visible from publicly accessible vantage points: i. Seasonally (e.g., screened by summer foliage, but visible during other seasons) ii. Year round
Moderate / Large

d. The situation or activity in which viewers are engaged while viewing the proposed action is: i. Routine travel by residents, including travel to and from work ii. Recreational or tourism based activities.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may cause a diminishment of the public enjoyment and appreciation of the designated aesthetic resource.
No / Small

f. There are similar projects visible within the following distance of the proposed project: 0-1/2 mile 1⁄2 -3 mile 3-5 mile 5+ mile.
No / Small

g. Other impacts:  Visual context of the  historic district
Moderate / Large

10. Impact on Historic and Archeological Resources

The proposed action may occur in or adjacent to a historic or archaeological resource. (Part 1. E.3.e, f. and g.)

a. The proposed action may occur wholly or partially within, or substantially contiguous to, any buildings, archaeological site or district which is listed on the National or State Register of Historical Places, or that has been determined by the Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to be eligible for listing on the State Register of Historic Places.
Moderate / Large

b. The proposed action may occur wholly or partially within, or substantially contiguous to, an area designated as sensitive for archaeological sites on the NY State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) archaeological site inventory.
Moderate / Large

c. The proposed action may occur wholly or partially within, or substantially contiguous to, an archaeological site not included on the NY SHPO inventory.
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Department: Moderate / Large with archaeologist Joe Diamond’s report attached. “He will be on site during excavation. There’s been some Native American activity.”  Larios: “But that’s all of Ulster County.” Planning Board: No / Small

e. If any of the above (a-d) are answered “Moderate to large impact may occur”, continue with the following questions to help support conclusions in Part 3:

  1. The proposed action may result in the destruction or alteration of all or part of the site or property.
    Moderate / Large
  2. The proposed action may result in the alteration of the property’s setting or integrity.
    Moderate / Large
  3. The proposed action may result in the introduction of visual elements which are out of character with the site or property, or may alter its setting.
    Moderate / Large

11. Impact on Open Space and Recreation

No / Small (Skip)

12. Impact on Critical Environmental Areas

The proposed action may be located within or adjacent to a critical NO YES environmental area (CEA). (See Part 1. E.3.d)

No / Small (Skip)

13. Impact on Transportation

The proposed action may result in a change to existing transportation systems. (See Part 1. D.2.j)

a. Projected traffic increase may exceed capacity of existing road network.
No / Small

b. The proposed action may result in the construction of paved parking area for 500 or more vehicles.
No / Small

d. The proposed action will degrade existing pedestrian or bicycle accommodations.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may alter the present pattern of movement of people or goods.
Moderate / Large

f. Other impacts:  Closing off Fair Street Extension
Moderate / Large. The Planning Department states that they will attach the Creighton Manning and HVAA reports. 

14. Impact on Energy

The proposed action may cause an increase in the use of any form of energy. (See Part 1. D.2.k)

a. The proposed action will require a new, or an upgrade to an existing, substation.
No / Small

b. The proposed action will require the creation or extension of an energy transmission or supply system to serve more than 50 single or two-family residences or to serve a commercial or industrial use.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may utilize more than 2,500 MW hrs per year of electricity.
No / Small

d. The proposed action may involve heating and/or cooling of more than 100,000 square feet of building area when completed.
No / Small.

15. Impact on Noise, Odor, and Light

The proposed action may result in an increase in noise, odors, or outdoor lighting. 

a. The proposed action may produce sound above noise levels established by local regulation.
Applicant: No / Small. Planning Department: Moderate/Large, though temporary due to construction. “They’ll need a noise permit from the city as a routine measure.” Planning Board: No / Small. 

b. The proposed action may result in blasting within 1,500 feet of any residence, hospital, school, licensed day care center, or nursing home.
No / Small

c. The proposed action may result in routine odors for more than one hour per day.
No / Small

d. The proposed action may result in light shining onto adjoining properties.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may result in lighting creating sky-glow brighter than existing area conditions.
No / Small

16. Impact on Human Health

The proposed action may have an impact on human health from exposure.

No / Small. “Attach asbestos work report that it has been removed from the Herzog Building.” Moriello asked about digging up solid or hazardous waste. Larios: “Only old footings from Montgomery Ward, old Parking Garage and Herzog building.”

17. Consistency with Community Plans

The proposed action is not consistent with adopted land use plans. 

a. The proposed action’s land use components may be different from, or in sharp contrast to, current surrounding land use pattern(s).
No / Small. 

b. The proposed action will cause the permanent population of the city, town or village in which the project is located to grow by more than 5%.
No / Small

c. The proposed action is inconsistent with local land use plans or zoning regulations.
No / Small

d. The proposed action is inconsistent with any County plans, or other regional land use plans.
No / Small

e. The proposed action may cause a change in the density of development that is not supported by existing infrastructure or is distant from existing infrastructure.
No / Small

f. The proposed action is located in an area characterized by low density development that will require new or expanded public infrastructure.
No / Small

g. The proposed action may induce secondary development impacts (e.g., residential or commercial development not included in the proposed action).
No / Small

h. Other: The proposed action requires a zoning change for this site
No / Small

18. Consistency with Community Character

No / Small (Skip)

37:18  The Planning Board discusses a public hearing on the proposed changes to the application. “I think we’ve been open with all of our meetings with the community, we haven’t hid or had any back room meetings. I think in transparency, one more meeting, I’m fine with…and the record is what it is”  Board Member Jacobson.

42:20  The Planning Board tables both Kingstonian items. Sets a public hearing for November 18th. Another special meeting is discussed for December 2nd.

The Kingston Planning Board Must Require the Kingstonian Applicant to Amend its Environmental Assessment Form to Reflect the Current Project

On Wednesday, November 6th at 6:00pm the Kingston Planning Board will hold a special planning board meeting on the Kingstonian project at City Hall in the Council Chambers.  

There will be an opportunity for the public to speak at the top of the meeting for any planning related topic. In the Planning Board’s agenda, the public is reminded that the Kingstonian is not listed as a public hearing.

This event will be filmed by The Kingston News and is brought to you by  

It is incumbent upon the Planning Board to conduct a thorough State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) on the Kingstonian application. The review must encompass the actual size and scope of the project as currently proposed. 

The Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) Part 1, prepared nearly a year ago in November 2018 by the applicant, describes a project that differs considerably from the project now before the Planning Board. Because the project has grown in scope and scale, the impacts are not accurately calculated in the EAF Part 1. The Planning Board must require the applicant to amend the EAF to reflect the project in its current iteration.

An EAF is “a form used by an agency to assist in determining the environmental significance or nonsignificance of actions. A properly completed EAF must contain enough information to describe the proposed action, its location, its purpose and its potential impacts on the environment.” 6 NYCRR 617.2(m) 

The applicant’s 2018 EAF states that the project will include 129 residential units. The latest announcement by the City touted 143 units. The EAF lists water use, energy use, wastewater output and solid waste output, which were presumably calculated based on the number of residential units. All of those figures must be revised to reflect the impacts of the current project proposal.

Further, the EAF does not accurately account for the new bulk of the project, which is essential to assessing its impacts on the visual environment, historic resources, and community character. The old EAF states that the largest building in the project will be 48 feet tall. The elevations submitted in August 2019 show the project to be six storiesor at least 60 feet tall. The changes announced in October would add an additional story, bringing the total to at least 70 feet (see the image above). 

Accurate statistics about the size and bulk of the building are essential for the Planning Board to determine whether it has the potential to create a significant adverse impact within its architectural context. SEQR regulations specifically call for an assessment of these types of impacts, including: “(iv) the creation of a material conflict with a community’s current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted; (v) the impairment of the character or quality of important historical, archeological, architectural, or aesthetic resources or of existing community or neighborhood character;” 6 NYCRR 617.7(c)(1)(iv-v) (emphasis added).

It has also come to light that the project will require one or more approvals that were not originally projected. In particular, the applicant has applied to the Common Council for a zoning amendment to extend the Mixed Use Overlay District to cover part of the project area. The zoning amendment is not listed among the necessary agency actions on the EAF. 

Failure to account for all components of the project can lead to illegal segmentation of the SEQR review. Failure to account for all impacts of the project risks producing a determination of significance that disables the relevant boards and commissions from addressing certain concerns in their subsequent reviews.

In sum, the lead agency must determine the significance of the proposed action based on a full and properly completed EAF. Given changes in the project and the failure to address the zoning change in the current EAF, the Planning Board does not currently have a full and complete EAF for the project as currently proposed. appreciates the developer’s recent inclusion of affordable housing. However, the increased building height in the revised plan only exacerbates the project’s adverse effects on what is an extraordinarily important historic district—for its history, its architecture, and as an economic driver. The State Historic Preservation Office has articulated strong concerns about these impacts. 

It is therefore even more important to complete a thorough and proper SEQR review. Once the EAF is revised to reflect the project in its current iteration, the Board must issue a Positive Declaration so that they can study—along with the community—potential mitigation of the significant adverse environmental impacts.

Additional Reading

READ: “Sign the Petition: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds”

READ: “The Kingstonian to be Jointly Reviewed Tonight; State Preservation Office Finds ‘Adverse Effects’ in its Evaluation of the Project; Confusion about Historic District Boundaries”

READ: “SEQR Process for Kingstonian Project Possibly to be ‘Segmented’”

SIGN THE PETITION: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds

View of the Kingstonian and its private swimming pool. Rendering by Mackenzie Architects.

Dear Members of the Kingston Common Council, 

We write regarding the zoning amendment request for the Kingstonian project. The Ulster County Planning Board has reviewed the proposed amendment and has determined that, as presented, it is inconsistent with the City’s zoning and Comprehensive Plan. If the amendment is to be adopted, the County has required changes, particularly the inclusion of affordable housing. We urge the Council to make the changes the County requires. Affordable housing is a critical need in Kingston, and there is no reason that a project receiving substantial public subsidies should escape the responsibility to supply affordable units.

Ulster County and the City of Kingston have an affordable housing crisis, with 55% of residents county-wide spending over 30% of their income on rent. When the City adopted the Mixed Use Overlay District in 2005, it called for 20% affordable units per project. Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2016, took the mission city-wide, calling for affordable units in all new residential developments throughout the city. Kingston is the only city in the Mid-Hudson region currently pursuing coverage under New York State’s new rent control laws to rein in its spiraling housing costs.

Applying the City’s affordable housing requirements to the proposed 131-unit Kingstonian project would bring much needed affordable units to Kingston families. In contrast, allowing construction of a luxury housing development with no affordable units would only worsen the housing crisis by further gentrifying Uptown and Kingston overall.

If the Common Council has determined that every developer in the city should provide affordable units at their own expense, then the heavily-subsidized Kingstonian project cannot be excused from providing the same.  

The Ulster County Planning Board warned in its letter that “it is disquieting that there is little disclosure of the public investment needed to bring the project to fruition.”  

The community is aware of at least $6.8 million in taxpayer-funded grants:

* $3.8 million from Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI);

* $2 million has been granted by the Empire State Development Corp; 

* A $1 million Restore NY Grant.

Here’s what our community remains in the dark about:

* The value of tax breaks through the Ulster County IDA, which may excuse the developer from paying sales and mortgage taxes, as well as portions of its city, county and school taxes;

* The value of all municipal real estate that will be contributed to the project, including Fair Street Extension, which will be eliminated, and the city parking lot parcel on North Front Street;

* The municipal parking revenue that will be lost once the public lot is sold. 

* The cost of any infrastructure upgrades the City will undertake to accommodate the project. 

* Any other public grants, tax credits, or subsidies the Kingstonian is seeking.

Therefore, we make two requests of the Common Council:

1. Do not amend the zoning map without also making the changes to the text of the zoning that the County requires. In particular, clarify that new multi-family housing must include affordable units.

2. Step up to your fiduciary responsibilities and provide the community with a full accounting of the public subsidies expected by the Kingstonian project. Ensure that all decisions requiring Common Council approval, including discretionary approvals and funding awards, have been identified and included in the SEQRA review. 

We look forward to your response.

SIGN THE PETITION: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds (via

SEQR Process for Kingstonian Project Possibly to be ‘Segmented’

On Wednesday, August 21st at 6:30pm, the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will have their monthly meeting where they are expected to discuss the Kingstonian Development Group’s petition request to amend the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) boundaries to include approximately 12% of its project site that is currently located outside of the district. The request came in June, and council members, at the direction of  Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, outlined a required 90-day time frame to include amending the zoning law. It included a public hearing that occurred last week.

At that meeting, members of the public pressed the city’s law-makers to not extend the MUOD zoning district without first seeking clarification about the overlay’s intent and applicability to the Kingstonian project. How does an overlay district that mandates the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and that 20% of the new residential units must be maintained as affordable housing — as the MUOD does — apply to the Kingstonian project, which proposes to be all new construction without any affordable housing?

As it turns out, initiating the 90-day time frame while the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for this project is still underway would have been segmentation, which is contrary to the intent of SEQR. The Assistant Corporation Counsel has all but admitted this truth and has since stated that the 90-day requirement was firm unless the applicant requested or agreed to additional time. This is information that had not been provided at the July 19th Laws and Rules Committee meeting.

What is Segmentation? “Segmentation means the division of the environmental review of an action such that various activities or stages are addressed under this Part as though they were independent, unrelated activities, needing individual determinations of significance.”
(SEQR Handbook, page 59)

As there is only one action, or project, outlined in the Kingstonian’s Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), neither the zoning amendment nor the Common Council’s role in the matter is listed in the EAF.

IF A ZONING CHANGE IS REQUIRED THEN A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FORM (EAF) WOULD BE TOO. On page 3 of the form it asks: “Is a zoning change requested as part of the proposed action?” The applicant checked “No” (see image below). The applicant would need to amend its EAF to correct this and list the amendment as one of the Common Council’s discretionary actions.  It is critical that all anticipated decisions by a particular agency be identified from the start in both the EAF and the addendum so that the potential environmental impacts associated with them can be considered together.

A revised lead agency coordination letter should then be sent to all involved agencies with accurate information about all of the approvals that would be required including the zoning amendment.

(caption) Top image: Page 3 of the applicant’s EAF asks whether a zoning change is part of the proposed action. The applicants answered “no.” Middle image: On page 2 of the addendum in the EAF where anticipated decisions by agency are listed, the zoning amendment is not identified. Bottom image: Page 6 of the addendum in the EAF the applicant notes that all planned uses were permitted when an amendment is required.

JUSTIFYING A SEGMENTED REVIEW AT THE TIME OF ITS DETERMINATION OF SIGNIFICANCE BY LEAD AGENCY.  According to SEQR law 617.3 (g) (1), if the EAF is not amended, then the Planning Board as lead agency will effectively be conducting a “segmented review” of the project. If they do that, the Planning Board “ must clearly state in its determination of significance, and any subsequent EIS, the supporting reasons and must demonstrate that such review is clearly no less protective of the environment. Related actions should be identified and discussed to the fullest extent possible.”

VIDEO: SEQR 101 Public Educational Forum

By Rebecca Martin

On Tuesday, May 21, in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union hosted a public educational forum on SEQR 101.  Video from our event was created by The Kingston News brought to you by

The event’s AGENDA is available with valuable links to resources on page two.

Thanks to Jennifer O’Donnell for bringing her knowledge and experience on the subject to our community.

Read more…

VIDEO/GOOGLE DOC: Public Comment Workshop for the Five Year CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan

“Why does the city suggest that SEQR is viewed as a barrier when it’s a passive voice? By whom is it viewed as a barrier? The language should be more specific if that is the case….The environmental reviews are a part of doing business. A municipality should be careful about characterizing it negatively in a report as it is something that protects the environment, economic and social factors in our community.”   a comment from the public during the recent workshop re: the five year CDBG Consolidated Strategic Plan

By Rebecca Martin

Last week, in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union and the Kingston Land Trust hosted a public comment workshop event for the Five-Year CDGB Consolidated Plan, Fair Housing Plan, and Annual Action Plan Federal Fiscal (2019).  With about 20 citizens in attendance, the group outlined 57 new comments that we’ll be submitting (along with more we hope) when the public comment closes on May 15th.

The City of Kingston extended the public comment deadline for 10 days (to May 15th) on the afternoon of our workshop. This will allow the public more time to look over and to comment on the plan.  It’s so important for the public to do so, as it is only created just once every five years.

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Public Input with a Positive or Negative Declaration in SEQR

In this image taken from the SEQR Cookbook, the top line “POSITIVE DECLARATION” illustrates robust public input for a pos dec determination in SEQR with many steps and opportunities. The bottom line “NEGATIVE DECLARATION” illustrates a neg dec determination where the review process concludes and there is no further opportunity for the public to participate as it relates to environmental impacts.

By Rebecca Martin

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.

Read more…

The ‘Pit’ In Our Stomach Was a Negative Declaration in SEQR

The photo reveals the ICC property looking North from Abeel street, where the developers appear to use “plywood” to mitigate damage.

By Rebecca Martin

After the ground gave way for the neighbors 7-year-old son to fall into the Irish Cultural Center’s project pit, residents living next door worried that their home property line would further erode with that night’s torrential downpour. Erosion has been an issue since last summer due to the apparent poor excavation practices and lack of oversight of the project.

As far as we are aware, the project does not have a stormwater plan in place to mitigate the impacts of rain storms that have compromised the site and Company Hill Path, a significant historic resource adjacent to the surrounding  properties.

Read more…

Before The Kingstonian Project There Was the Teicher Organization.

“The Planning Board adopted a determination of significance (i.e. a positive declaration) for the project on March 30, 2006, directing the preparation of a draft scoping document for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The reasons stated for its determination were that ‘the proposed scope of demolition and construction will have potential for impacts on the immediate adjacent business district and surrounding area. Potential impacts include, but are not limited to; traffic and noise levels, infrastructure and utilities, schools, recreation and other community services; visual and historic resources; off-site improvements; economics and markets; housing availability, etc…’”   – Kingston Planning Board Decision, Final Scoping Document for DEIS “Proposed Mixed-Use Development of the Uptown Municipal Parking Garage Site” (2007)

By Rebecca Martin

A decade ago, before the proposed Kingstonian Project, there was the Teicher Organization’s plan to tear down a decrepit parking garage at Wall and North Front Streets. In its place, they would build a $65 million, 214-unit condominium building that would rise 12 stories in height. “The building would include a 600-space parking garage (with half of those spaces available to the public and half going to residents of the building) and 10,000 square-feet of retail space. The plan would call for a special taxing scheme to be set up whereby a portion of taxes paid by residents of the complex were used to pay for a public parking garage.”    

While the the Teicher Organization’s proposal may have been larger in size, its other details are similar to the proposed Kingstonian Project. Both were categorized as Type 1 actions with a coordinated review process. For both, the Kingston Planning Board was/is the lead agency.  But will their determinations be the same?

Read more…

Key Citizen Public Comments On Process and the Proposed Kingstonian Public Hearing.

Click on the image to learn more about the SEQR process.

By Rebecca Martin

At the April 10th public hearing on the Kingstonian proposal, over 50 speakers provided three hours of testimony.  Most of which had little to do with the decisions that were currently in front of the Planning Board as Lead Agency of the State Environmental Quality Review Process (SEQR) in making a Positive or Negative Declaration for the project.

Below are three citizen comment highlights that speak directly to the current process the proposal is currently in.

If you wish to review the meeting in full and the “listen to the community” rally beforehand, you can do so HERE   We are also uploading 19 key testimony segments HERE

No decisions were made that evening.

Filmed by Clark Richters of The Kingston News. Brought to you by

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WHAT TO EXPECT. Public Hearing on Proposed Kingstonian Project on April 10

City of Kingston Planning Board
Public Hearing on the Kingstonian

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

City of Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers (Top Floor)
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

Before the public hearing
Front Lawn
Kingston City Hall

Co-sponsors include:  Kingston Tenants Union, Midtown Rising, Rise Up Kingston, Citizen Action of New York Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter, Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson and

It is not expected that the planning board will make any decisions on the 10th.

A regular planning board meeting will occur on Monday, 4/15 where the planning board may decide on the items listed in the 4/10 AGENDA  (lot line deletion, site plan / special permit and SEQR determination (pos or neg dec))

Read more…

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board Sets Public Hearing on April 10th for Kingstonian Project.

Last evening, the Kingston Planning Board announced that it would not be making a determination at this time for the proposed Kingstonian Project, accepted its role as lead agency of the review process and, set a public hearing for the project to be held on Wednesday, April 10th at 6:00pm.

The public can attend to share any of their concerns (that will be placed on record) for consideration of a determination by the planning board as lead agency for the Kingstonian Project.

Video made by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by


(click on image to view video)

2:00 – 4:55
Geddy Sveikauskas

“The project is sited on the steep slope connecting two quite different successful neighborhoods, Kingston Plaza and the Stockade district. Connecting these two signature parts of the city while retaining the character of each has been a community goal for at least the last 361 years. Given the site’s location and it’s important to examine the site very thoughtfully with extensive community input  …the present design (of the Kingstonian) presentation has been disappointing and unpersuasive. More of a marketing effort designed to mislead than a site plan to provide an honest sense of the environmental, economic and social impacts of this $40 million + project.”

5:00 – 11:44
Rebecca Martin

“The spirit of SEQR is to provide the opportunity for the public to identify and understand what the impacts of a project like this are – so that they can be properly mitigated through a collaborative and inclusive process. At this critical juncture, it would be helpful for the planning board as lead agency to communicate in advance the timeline of SEQR as it pertains to this project so that the public will know what and when they can contribute in a meaningful way.”

11:50 – 14:15
Peter Orr

“Although certain people supporting a positive SEQR declaration have said they only wish to have a process that maximizes the benefits to Kingston residents, the reality is this project will not happen if a positive declaration for SEQR occurs…”

14:17 – 16:29
Karen Clark-Adin

“One aspect of the Kingstonian is important to bear in mind. This is not an out of town billionaire developer. This is the Jordan family. They have been in the city of Kingston for over 80 years…I highly doubt that the upstanding members of the Jordan family would do a shabby job in the Kingstonian development…being a contributing citizen in a community is incredibly important and should be recognized and acknowledged. The Jordan family has that in spades. It’s very important for you to look at the residents of the city of Kingston who has been here for years supporting the city.”

16:33 – 18:19
James Shaughnessy

“I suggest that a positive SEQR declaration for the Kingstonian project be made. The proposal is the largest uptown development project in recent history. It is on the boundary of the Stockade – a historical district. The footprint and scale will be larger than any in the surrounding neighborhood…Millions of public dollars are earmarked…what other subsidies have been promised or asked for? This is not an unabashed benign project. Positive and negative impacts will be irrevocable once it’s built. Kingston deserves more than a ‘no problems’ declaration.”


18:26 – 25:29
Testimony on the West Chestnut Boarding House


(click on image to view video)

Kingston Planning Board declares Lead Agency and announces April 10th at 6:00pm in the Kingston Common Council , special meeting to open a public hearing for the Kingstonian Project.

Items #9 and #10 are tabled at this time.


For more information, please REVIEW the Kingstonian Project Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)

INVOLVED AGENCIES (those who have a discretionary decision to make for the Kingstonian Project) include:
1. City of Kingston Planning Board (site approval, special use permit approval, SEQRA approval, Lot Line Revision).
2. City of Kingston Common Council (Closing of a City Street, Sale of Land or Easement Conveyance, Deviated PILOT Review)
3. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (SPEDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharge)
4. City of Kingston Department of Public Works (Curb Cut Permit, Sewer Tap)
5. City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals (Area Variances for Floor Area Ratio and Height)
6. City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Commission (Notice of Preservation of Action)
7. Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (Deviated PILOT Agreement)
8. City of Kingston Water Department (Water tap)
9. City of Kingston Consolidated School District (Deviated PILOT Review)
10. Empire State Development Corporation (Approval of Grants: Restore New York, Consolidated Funding Application and Downtown Revitalization Initiative)

Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) Identifies Potential Significant Environmental Impacts of the Kingstonian Project.

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s meeting of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), the Commission as an involved agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed Kingstonian Project put forward a motion to amend the agenda to include a discussion of the Kingstonian Project and its “potential significant environmental impacts” pertaining to historic preservation. With the clock ticking on a 20-day window for the Planning Board, as lead agency, to make a Positive or Negative Declaration in SEQR (the deadline being March 20th), the HLPC’s March meeting would have effectively been their last opportunity to discuss their concerns as a collective body. Apparently it was the desire of the entire Commission to have this discussion placed on its March agenda beforehand, but their request was not honored by the Commission’s administrative staff in the Planning Department.

VIDEO ONE:  4:00 – 20:00 found it deeply troubling that the City of Kingston’s Planning Director — who is both affiliated with the Planning Board as Lead Agency (meant to be an impartial body responsible for administering the environmental review process) and as staff of the executive branch that wrote the successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application to secure the $10 million dollar grant to be used in part to fund the Kingstonian Project — spent nearly 15 minutes trying to dissuade the Commission from amending their agenda to include a discussion of the project and its potential impacts as it pertained to the historical, archeological and community character of the project.   The Commissioners had also requested that the item be placed on the agenda, but Suzanne Cahill, who now is responsible for the HLPC’s administrative duties, would not agree to do so.

The HLPC is one of 10 involved agencies that will have a discretionary decision to make for the Kingstonian Project. Although anyone can point out potential significant environmental impacts, it is required in the SEQR regulations for the Commission in their capacity to “state their concerns (of the)…potential (environmental) impacts of the overall action”.

In the SEQR Handbook, Page 66, “How is the lead agency chosen?” it says about all Involved Agencies:

“The agency undertaking a direct action or the first agency to receive a request for funding or approval should circulate a letter, Part I of the EAF, and a copy of the application, including a site map, to other potentially involved agencies. That agency may choose to indicate its desire to serve as lead or may point out that its jurisdiction may be minimal compared to other agencies. If it has indicated a desire to become lead agency, it may also note its intended determination of significance. The letter should request all other involved agencies to state their interests and concerns regarding selection of lead agency and potential impacts of the overall action. The letter should also note that an agency’s failure to respond within 30 days of the date of the letter will be interpreted as having no interest in the choice of lead agency and having no comments on the action at this time.”

“Dan,” said Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill, as a seemingly last resort for support of her efforts to squash the item from the agenda. “I’m with you,” replied Dan Gartenstein, the City of Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. “I don’t think this item should be discussed if it was not on a publicly distributed agenda…based on open meetings law.” However, there is no reference to agendas in the NYS Open Meetings Law.

  1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given or electronically transmitted to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
  2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given or electronically transmitted, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
  3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice.
  4. If video conferencing is used to conduct a meeting, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that video conferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations.
  5. If a meeting will be streamed live over the internet, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public of the internet address of the website streaming such meeting.
  6. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body’s internet website. is all for good policy, but the City of Kingston’s elected and appointed officials have a responsibility to not mislead the public or its citizen volunteer commissioners at any time. In the case of the Kingstonian Project, the meeting filmed last night raises the question of whether it is even possible for any municipal body to be lead agency and remain impartial in SEQR given what it stands to gain in a public/private partnership. Maybe, but the perceived errors in the actions of city staff last night ought to be enough to inspire the Planning Board to follow the rules to the letter to insure a transparent process.


VIDEO TWO: 5:34 – 18:08


The HLPC discusses the potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to historic preservation for the proposed Kingstonian Project.

  • The project site has the potential to yield information important in history or prehistory, such as evidence of the former presence of the stockade which crossed on or near to this site and/or other previously unknown archaeological resources. Such evidence was unearthed nearby on Clinton Avenue in 1970. This site has been identified as archaeologically sensitive by the NY State Historic Preservation Office.
  • This project involves the demolition of an existing architectural resource in the Stockade Historic District and may seek to replicate this resource, which has the potential to create a false historical record.
  • This project involves new construction in the Stockade Historic District. Potential impacts include those that are construction-related, such as falling objects, vibration (from blasting or pile-driving), dewatering, flooding, subsidence, or collapse. The project’s close proximity to two architectural resources—the Senate House and grounds and the John Tremper House at 1 North Front Street—may negatively impact them if adequate precautions are not taken.
  • New construction may impact the visual context of the district, including the architectural components of the district’s buildings in this area (e.g. height, scale, proportion, massing, fenestration, ground-floor configuration, style), streetscapes, skyline, landforms, and openness to the sky. The project may also impact the visual context of the Senate House, a significant state landmark.
  • This project proposes changes to a significant historic landscape feature of this historic district: the bluff, an important element to interpreting the district’s history. The National Register nomination for the Stockade Historic District recognizes the following:

“To this day, the boundary lines of this stockade are formed by Green Street, Main Street, Clinton Avenue, and North Front Street and are still intact. Also, amazingly enough, almost the entire bluff promontory forming the perimeter of this area, elevated above the lowland, is still comparatively intact. Therefore, of the three first settlements in New York State—Albany (Fort Orange, New York (New Amsterdam), and Kingston—it is only Kingston that the authentic elements of an original fortification remain. Documents indicate that this log palisade was in existence until the early eighteenth century, having been kept in repair as protection against later Indian raids. While this area at present is surrounded by commercial development, aerial photography has recently indicated the existence of outlines suggesting that the angle itself may as yet be relatively undisturbed. This area forms a sharp bluff and this may account for its preservation.”


Positive Declaration Required for the Kingstonian Project. submitted a letter to the Kingston Planning Board as Lead Agency (and most Involved and Interested Agencies) in the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) with support from 194 tax paying residents and business owners in the City of Kingston requesting a Positive Declaration in SEQR.

VIEW the petition
We are still collecting signature to present during public comment of the Kingston Planning Board meeting on 3/18 so keep signing and sharing. 

The Kingstonian is a project planned for Uptown Kingston’s historic district. It “involves the redevelopment of the City of Kingston parking garages property, the Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. warehouse property and the Uptown Grill property (also owned by Herzog’s Supply Co., Inc). The proposed project includes the following elements:  420 car parking garage, 120 apartment units, 32 room hotel, 8950 square feet of retail space, a pedestrian plaza area, and an elevated pedestrian link to connect to Kingston Plaza.”

The Kingstonian Proposal in Uptown, Kingston

DRI Grant Application (Public/Private project with $3.8m in grant funds and $48m in private funds).

In our letter, we state that  “Upon reviewing the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) as a record before the Planning Board, we have identified a number of significant potential impacts. Therefore, as required by New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) 617.7(a), the Board should issue a Positive Declaration and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for this project.”

“We also request a public comment period of 90 days on the Draft Scope for the Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) and to hold a public scoping meeting to allow for greater public participation. By doing so, this will ensure that no potentially significant adverse impacts are left out of the DEIS and all environmental concerns are adequately addressed as required by SEQRA.”

The letter outlines potential significant environmental impacts taken from the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)submitted by the both applicants Kingstonian Development LLC and JM Development Group, LLC.

“We expect that the Planning Board will recognize these impacts and issue a Positive Declaration, and outline plans for a public scoping process at its next meeting on March 18th. As this project has already elicited strong reactions from the community, a transparent and inclusive SEQR process is an opportunity to address important concerns in a comprehensive manner. Such thoroughness will ensure that this project benefits the Kingston community to the greatest extent possible.”

The Kingston Planning Board meets next on March 18th at 6:00pm where it is expected that the Planning Board as Lead Agency will issue a positive declaration and outline its scoping plans.  They may also choose to issue a negative declaration, however – the burden will then be on them to prove that there are no impacts rather than the citizens to prove that there are.

Residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming meeting to support a Positive Declaration for the Kingstonian Project during public comment.

READ:  What to Expect:  March 18th Kingston Planning Board Meeting and the Kingstonian project. 


Read more…

PETITION: Kingstonian Project and SEQR – Positive Declaration and Scoping



SIGN the Petition
“We Support a Pos DEC in SEQR for the Kingstonian Project”

Kingston Residents can request a Positive Declaration in SEQR that would allow more input and studies on the proposed Kingstonian Project.


With the Lead Agency for the Kingstonian Project underway (READ: Kingstonian Project and SEQR: Lead Agency), we anticipate the Kingston Planning Board will secure that role for the Kingstonian Project SEQR process.  With a 30-day window for confirmation that began on January 29th, we expect confirmation by February 28th.

Once Lead Agency is determined, the next significant milestone in SEQR will be a 20-day window for Lead Agency to make a “Positive” or “Negative” declaration for the Kingstonian Project. 

With a project this large and significant, we are advocating for a “Positive Declaration” (Pos Dec) in SEQR and are currently putting together a coalition of partners to make that same request.  To assure that the public is involved in this request, we have also created a petition that we will submit with our coalition letter in a couple of weeks.

Please join us by signing our PETITION by Friday, March 1st.


Why is this significant? 

A Positive Declaration is “a determination by the lead agency that an action may result in at least one potential significant environmental impact and so will require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the Lead Agency decisions may be made regarding the action. The positive declaration starts the EIS process.”  

With the recent changes in SEQR Regulations, a “pos dec” immediately triggers a public scoping process which would be a great opportunity for our community to work on this together.


The Scoping Process in SEQR.

As of January 1, 2019, when there is a “Pos Dec” determination, scoping is automatically triggered. This is in the public’s best interest, as prior Jan 1 this year, an additional request  would have had to have been made.

A “draft scope” would be created and submitted to the Lead Agency by the applicant at some point in time that would then be released to the public (as my mentor, Kate Hudson, used to say, “Think of a draft scope document as a ‘table of contents’ for the project”).

Once it is received by the Lead Agency, approved and released – there is a 30-day window that occurs for the public to review the document and to make additional comments for study.  In our petition and coalition letter, we are requesting 90-days as well as a public meeting.  

The comments/questions of concern are ultimately sent to the Lead Agency to vet – and once approved,  a ‘final scoping’ document is created and sent to the applicant who is then required to answer each questions in what will become a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  More on that later on. We need to achieve a pos dec first.


The Input of Citizens and Advocates is Critical for a Good SEQR Process and Outcome. 

There is no one better to do this work than the citizens who will be directly impacted (both negatively and/or positively) to a project like this with the support of advocates who have dedicated their life’s work on the range of issues that may arise.   We hope you’ll join us as we take our first step in preparing to ask the Lead Agency to issue a “Pos Dec” on the proposed Kingstonian Project.  If you live in the City of Kingston, please sign our petition to be delivered by or about 3/1/19.


REVIEW: The SEQR Cookbook