The public will get a chance on Dec. 14 to offer their opinions on a proposal to convert an old doctor’s office at 90 Prince St. in Midtown Kingston into an indoor shooting range.
The application by Dr. Adam Soyer, currently under consideration by the city planning board, wasn’t originally going to have a public hearing as the site is an allowed use in its commercial zone. But comments by residents at the board’s Nov. 9 meeting caused a change of heart.
The proposed shooting range, which Soyer is calling SAFESHOOT, was first brought to the city planning board last month.
At last week’s planning board meeting, Kingston resident Kristin Wilson, who works in public health, cited a section of city code which states the planning board “may hold a public hearing on the site plan if it determines that the matter is of wide public interest.”
While Wilson noted that city Assistant Planner Kyla Haber had e-mailed her that “the planning board meeting would not be the forum to debate…the national politics of gun control and gun-related issues and concerns,” Wilson said citizens should have a chance to speak out on the shooting range given that “we have been seriously impacted by gun violence in our own little city” and that “one of the roles of the planning board is to consider public health and safety when you make your decisions.”
Also attending the meeting was Jennifer Schwartz Berky, newly elected Ulster County legislator for the city’s District 7. “Under the code, as the planning board you have the right to call a public hearing on issues of wide public concern and the shooting range is in that range,” she said.
Two other members of the public expressed alarm. One was Jonah Meyer, who read a letter on behalf of his landlord, John Grimolizzi, owner of 82 Prince. Meyer said the proposed shooting range was “a total outrage” given its proximity to Kingston High School, the YMCA and the emergency room at HealthAlliance’s hospital on Broadway. Grimolizzi noted it would also “negatively affect the rentability” of the property.
Denise Kynoch, a state corrections officer, spoke in favor of the range. Presently, she said, she has to travel to the Bronx, Manhattan or Monroe to visit a range where she can rent a .38 caliber revolver and practice shooting it in order to meet her job qualifications. “I’m more limited than other officers because I don’t want to own a weapon. When I read about the range, I was overjoyed,” she said.
Harold Grunenwald said the shooting range “is one more business that actually will bring some revenue and interest into Midtown Kingston.”
Soyer, who conducted his medical practice in the building until 2014, when he moved his office to Lake Katrine, plans to convert the structure into a 15-yard, five-lane shooting range as well as classrooms. It would sell and rent firearms and ammunition, offer weekly training sessions and have a range safety officer on-site when the facility is open. Soyer is working with a Colorado consulting company called Shooting Indoors to design SAFESHOOT.
“The structure is satisfactory for this type of activity, and there’s the convenience factor, given there are no options locally for people in law enforcement to qualify with their handguns,” he said, noting that the nearest indoor shooting ranges are in Monroe and Coxsackie.
In cold weather, that also means there’s no place for target-shooting enthusiasts like himself to indulge in their hobby, he added.
He said his facility would also attract “novices” — “people who have a permit for a gun and never shot it and are not comfortable using it. You could come down to the range, take a safety course, meet with the range safety officer and see if the gun works for you,” he said. “Safety would be paramount.”
Soyer said SAFESHOOT would be a members-only facility. Members would have to have a licensed permit to own a firearm in New York, be vetted and meet with the range safety officer. The officer “would instruct them on range safety and make sure they’re competent. If they can’t meet the bare minimum qualifications for safety, they won’t be accepted,” he said.
The shooting range would be open weekends and during the week in the morning and early evening. Soyer expects the facility to attract 200 visits a week. Besides handgun shooting practice, the facility — which could also accommodate some rifles — might also host special events, such as the .22 caliber rifle bench shooting offered by clubs in the Hudson Valley.