Wide range of debate on Midtown proposal

kt logoAt the beginning of Monday evening’s public hearing on a plan to convert a former doctor’s office on Prince Street in Midtown Kingston into a five-lane shooting range, Kingston planning board chairman Wayne Platte Jr. made a pair of requests: That the evening focus on the “planning and zoning aspects of the project” and that speakers keep their remarks to two minutes each. “We don’t want this to become a forum or debate on gun control,” said Platte.

While Platte ran the Dec. 14 meeting with patience and unfailing courtesy, neither of his requests got honored. What was billed as a planning board meeting oftentimes became a “town hall” meeting on guns; virtually all speakers blasted right through the two-minute time limit and the majority of them echoed points often heard in the nationwide discussion of the pros and cons of civilian gun ownership.

About 50 from a crowd of nearly 100 offered their opinions. Approximately 25 said they supported Dr. Adam Soyer’s plan, about 10 of them identifying themselves as Kingston residents. Nineteen said they were against the plan, 17 of them identifying themselves as Kingston residents.


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 50-foot, five-lane members-only 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 and local architect Scott Dutton is also on the project. Soyer has said HEPA air filters will be installed so lead contamination “would virtually be eliminated” and stringent vetting (only those currently holding valid pistol permits would be allowed to use the range) and security measures would be taken.

Broadly speaking, plan supporters said a local range would increase proficiency and overall safety. Opponents said they were worried about bringing guns to a site within yards of both Kingston High School and the YMCA, and that opening a shooting range in Midtown would decrease property values and crimp the neighborhood’s growth.

Last week, the Kingston school board adopted a resolution opposing the shooting range. Two trustees, James Shaughnessy and Robin Jacobowitz, spoke. Jacobowitz read into the record the school board’s resolution. Shaughnessy suggested another site for the range. “There’s a lot of empty space in Ulster County that would be more appropriate for a shooting range than the City of Kingston,” he said, and added Soyer was “irresponsible” to have proposed it in the first place.

“I am more concerned with the dangers inside the school than what [the range proposal] would present,” said Elmer Leseur of Kingston, adding that it’s important for people to have places to maintain their firearms proficiency.

Christine Williams, a KHS grad who now lives in Maybrook, said the range “is a true asset to our community. It would be a great benefit to our community.” Noting that those with pistol permits were aware of the law and their responsibility, she said “we need more education and less fear about firearms.”

“There is no danger,” said Harold Grunenwald of Kingston. “I have no idea what the school board is thinking.”

Denise Kynoch of Kingston is a state corrections officer who said she needs to qualify with firearms as part of her job and said she was “overjoyed” at the prospect at not having to travel as far as the Bronx or Orange County to practice. “I’m all for it, so I can keep my job,” said Kynoch.

Noted Johannes Sayre of Kingston, who said he would “welcome” a public range in the city, “the real-world complexities of this problem have been replaced by cartoons.”

Sheriff’s Chief Civil Officer John McGovern of Kingston, in charge of processing pistol permit applications and conducting background checks, said there were about 24,000 concealed-carry permit holders in Ulster County. He called the range a “boon” for both law enforcement officers and permit holders to gain proficiency. Ulster’s permit holders have, he said, “consistently proved to be responsible with their weapons. They’re not the problem.”

“I got no problem with this range,” said John Cranston of Kingston, adding that he thought the increased traffic the range would bring to the neighborhood would be good for local business. If people don’t like it, fine, he said. “There are a lot of things going on in the City of Kingston that I don’t like.”

Bad fit and dangerous, speakers say

Kristin Wilson of Kingston said there was “significant public opposition and threats to public health and safety” to and from the proposal. Citing the increased risk of both homicide and suicide posed by guns, she said approving the range would “further endanger our community with gun violence. … Don’t allow this land use in the heart of our community.”

There is one comment

  1. AnotherTakeOnIt

    From a zoning perspective the city itself set the precedence for a shooting range in Midtown Kingston. This as the city operated a shooting range practically across the street from the proposed range in what is now known as the Andy Murphy Midtown Neighborhood Center.

    I know the range was in operation as early as the 1940s. I confirmed this today when I spoke with a former student from MJM middle school who shot there in 1948-49 as part of a school club. The students used to bring their .22 rimfire rifles to school on the bus, carry them into the school, and during the activity period at the end of the day carry them down to the Municipal Auditorium range. As my informant recalls Mr. Wells was the school’s faculty advisor for this club. This school club was but one group of shooters who used the range regularly.

    I also know the range operated into at least the 1980s. This as when the informal shooting at Coward’s Falls on Hurley Mtn. Rd. was being stopped I spoke with Fred Farber, then President of the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County about the situation. He said that the Federation didn’t want to get involved in that issue as they were trying to keep the city’s range open. It seems that changing air quality standards (but indoor and outdoor) led to the range not being in compliance. The cost to upgrade the air handling and filtering was high and ultimately the range closed. I imagine that there are city common council, committee, and/or board meeting minutes that would reflect the problems and give a more definitive date to the closure.

    It is important to note that this range was in operation after the city passed the ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms in the city.

    A state of the art indoor shooting range, as proposed by Dr. Soyer, would be an economic draw from which the commercial district on and around Broadway will benefit. The range patrons, on average will be better educated, more affluent, and better trained in firearms safety than not only the average citizen but also of gun owners in general. This as sport shooting is a relatively expensive. The certified instructors at the range will help improve gun safety not only through range procedures but through the formal training offered.

    The zoning board’s decision should be easy from a zoning standpoint as there is nothing to preclude the range. Once people get past the ill informed anti-gun bigotry and look at this as a business catering to people who have passed criminal and mental health background checks, and who have the means to patronize the range, they will realize this range will be an economic and educational benefit to Kingston.

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