Unfair and untrue
I was surprised and saddened by several references in “Hooley on the Hudson in Kingston” which appeared in the Sept. 1 issue of Almanac Weekly. It starts out by suggesting to your readership that their concept of an Irish celebration might be a “ … beer-fueled donnybrook, with shillelaghs and fists a-flying,” and further reinforces with “negative stereotypes” and “pugnacious Fighting Irish.” It then takes those negative images and assigns them, with a suggestive “perhaps,” to the “Rondout residents and business-owners [who] have expressed concerns” about the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley project. This article creates its own issue, and unfairly and without any basis in truth, stereotypes the residents and business owners of the Rondout.
It’s understandable that people who have experienced bigotry in the past, should imagine it in obstacles they come across. However, we’re a country of immigrants, and we’ve all experienced prejudice of one sort or another at one time or another. Kingston, both historically and presently, embraces many cultures. But seeing prejudice as the motive behind whatever challenge one is facing, can become an easy way to avoid facing the truth of the matter, and a way to sidestep one’s responsibility for the predicament one finds one’s self in. Which is what seems to be happening with the issues that have come to light concerning the proposed Irish Cultural Center project in Kingston.
The people who have asked the questions that brought the issues to light, did so out of sincere concern for real problems, not out of bigotry. Indeed, many of the concerned citizens who asked the questions are of Irish descent themselves. To dismiss the very troubling points about missed steps in the process, needless law changes and serious parking problems that have been questioned by Rondout residents and business owners, by instead saying that they’re based in bigotry, is nothing more than a method of ignoring these legitimate concerns, and a way to avoid dealing with them. It’s an attempt to paint the citizens’ and business people’s honest concerns with false slurs to cloud the issues. It’s a magician’s trick: don’t look at what I’m doing; look over there. But we really need to look. We need to examine the ICCHV proposal very carefully, and the fact that this tactic is now being used, even by our own Almanac, underscores that need even more.
No basis in fact
This is a comment in response to Frances Marion Platt’s “Hooley on the Hudson on the Rondout” article which appeared in the Almanac Weekly on Sept. 1.
The bigotry against the Irish discussed in this article is not at all why Rondout residents and business-owners have expressed concerns about the proposed Irish Cultural Center (ICCHV). In fact, Irish stereotypes have never even been mentioned when listing concerns about this proposal. If that wild accusation had been researched before printed, it would have been obvious from the many letters and statements made on record to the planning board that the concerns about noise and other impacts actually stem from the fact that the proposal does not adhere to Rondout zoning codes and has only gotten so far in the process because of special favors granted to it. In fact, many of the statements of concern were made by people of Irish heritage and longtime Kingston and Ulster County
residents. We have said we were originally interested in supporting an Irish Cultural Center for the Hudson Valley, but when we discovered this proposal’s size and scale and how little it fit into the historic or zoning regulations for the neighborhood, as well as the intense parking problems it would create, we felt it our civic right and responsibility to let local government and the ICCHV know the impacts it would have on us. I would invite this writer to attend some of the Kingston city board meetings and to reach out to some of the Rondout neighbors in order to educate herself on her presentation of the legitimate concerns surrounding this proposal.
This slanderous accusation has no basis in fact and needs to be retracted immediately.
Hillary and Owen Harvey
I presume that the authors of the letters objecting to my preview piece for Hooley on the Hudson last week in Almanac Weekly are reacting to my statement that “negative stereotypes still persist in popular culture … Perhaps that’s partly why some Rondout residents and business-owners have expressed concerns about potential noise and other impacts from the Cultural Center’s arrival.”
I regret that what was intended as playful, tongue-in-cheek speculation may have been misinterpreted by some readers as a serious allegation of some sort of ill intent or bigotry on the part of Rondout neighbors who are participating in the public comment process on the proposed development. Nothing of the sort was intended.
I ask that anyone who has taken offense kindly note that I used the word “Perhaps,” which was meant as a cue that I was exercising my imagination in a humorous, even absurdist way. This article was a lighthearted peek at an upcoming community cultural event for the arts and leisure section of the newspaper, not a hard-news report on planning and zoning issues in the City of Kingston, which are not and have never been my beat. I was not aware of Irish stereotypes being any sort of issue in the actual discussion of the appropriateness of the development for this site, and certainly have no wish to discount the seriousness of whatever genuine concerns are being raised.
Frances Marion Platt
Center a good fit for Downtown
The Irish Cultural Center as currently proposed fits well into the Hudson Riverport Vision, Kingston’s aspirational plan for the creekfront in downtown Kingston. (See the map provided for the Feb. 24, 2015 public meeting at www.kingston-ny.gov/EcoDev.) The building will offer both a symbolic presence (19th century Irish-Americans did much to build Rondout) and, with its theater and educational programs, will add to the diversity of attractions downtown. But its address on Abeel Street is misleading. Only a few steps up the historic Company Hill Path, its main visibility and for many visitors its main entrance will be on the side of the waterfront park and the Rondout Creek. In considering the center’s zoning status, city agencies will, I hope, recognize this and keep in mind Kingston’s overall vision for the creekfront.
As for the parking shortage downtown, it does not seem to be keeping anyone away. One can, however, see how future developers might be kept away if they are required to provide their own off-street parking based on requirements being considered for the ICC. The ICC has plans for 18 parking spaces in its first phase of development and 23 more in its second phase. Some businesses are concerned that the additional pressure on public parking will discourage people from coming downtown. Yet these are businesses that with very few exceptions do not provide off-street parking and rely entirely on public parking. One commercial building on lower Broadway provides two off-street parking spaces. Ole Savannah in the historic Cornell engine repair building has 18 parking spots for its fire law maximum of 325 occupants and clearly depends in part on the public parking lot across the street. Other than these exceptions, every downtown business and non-profit depends on public parking.
For the future, the Riverport Vision identifies other potential parking locations along the creek. One possibility would be to increase the lot under the bridge overpass to two levels. If the Irish Cultural Center is forced to scale back its plans, other developers may think much harder about being part of the Riverport Vision. Instead, let’s allow the Irish Cultural Center to share the public parking support that other downtown businesses and organizations are currently provided.