Happy New Year to all my friends: All the unaffiliated, non-registereds, write-in voters, and the voters in every party, since voting is an important right. While there is a great deal of non-agreement within any set of populations even when they generally agree on the big issues, what is important is the stimulating vibrant conversations within Kingston’s greater whole and all the parties: Democratic, Republican, Communist, Conservative, Constitution, New York Federalist, Freedom, Green, Independence Liberal, Libertarian, Marijuana Reform, Natural Law, New, Reform, New York State Right to Life, Rent Is Too Damn High, Save Jobs, Socialist, Taxpayers/Federalist, Working Families, New York Pirate, Women’s Equality, Sapient and anyone else. I go by Pete Seeger’s idea of being for social and environmental justice progressive and also go along with his spirit of dialogue with everyone for the greater good of community engagement. New ideas get shaped from seemingly opposing viewpoints and it is amazing what an open mind can allow to enter as a mash up possibility for solutions that are not in any one “camp.” It’s all about what we can learn from one another with the intent to work collaboratively. As John Lennon’s song, Imagine, urges, let’s all be dreamers. In Kingston we have the opportunity to shape this amazing city to include the best ideas of everyone in the stone soup of a greater whole.
I have been delighted to be part of the Kingston community for the last four years to watch the great changes in vitality under the watch and leadership of Mayor Gallo. I was inspired by the Model City concept he shaped for Kingston. He took an old blueprint from LBJ’s concept and adapted it to Kingston to address the issues posed by a new economy and the post-urban renewal debacle (and as Lynn Woods aptly named it with her documentary, Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal). Bringing his B.E.A.T. initiative to Midtown with the Business, Education, Arts (including Food and Fashion) and Technology being more integrated created many new seeds what will be harvested in the decade to flower. His creation of a Midtown Arts District puts the arts community on the radar screen of New York City and New York State and beyond. Bravo to the mayor and to Gregg Swanzey for his amazing work on this and the Greenline initiatives that will help make Kingston a more walkable city with greater connection to the larger Hudson Valley and Catskill communities by bike navigation, which also introduces a view of exercise and health.
While many of the initiatives he undertook were long underway, such as a vibrant arts collective, it takes a visionary leader to observe and give support and infrastructure naming to what is there to amplify and make visible the hidden gems and allow for the economic development that government can initiate.
Kudos on his vigilant demands for the PSC to put pressure on the cable providers for state-of-the-art fiber optic underground connectivity. He was also a great advocate of creating job opportunities and internships with businesses and programs for Midtown youth as a way of stimulating the conversation and awareness of how to promote local hiring and training for city youth. He inspired and was inspiring to many young people by introducing the concepts of the fusion of arts and technology to interest them in 3D printing and independent film pre- and post-production as well as farm-to-table cuisine for possible career tracks.
Mayor Gallo made a great mark in his approach to keeping property taxes as low as possible to cover the fixed costs of running Kingston. He masterfully maximized and leveraged public-private partnerships to create RUPCO’s Lace Mill artist residences and pave the way for Cedar Street E2 in the former bowling alley for the work, live, play lifestyle that is attracting creatives to the Hudson Valley and specifically Kingston for the tech community that has emerged. Creating beauty and pragmatic new use out of old vacant buildings is a major achievement.
Perhaps the most elegant thing I personally observed was the artful way in which he allowed what appeared on the chessboard to be an obvious solution from a higher vantage point by giving full rein to the water activists, I amongst them, by allowing them to do the work of convincing Niagara Bottling Company to move elsewhere rather than stepping into a grave that would deplete Kingston by being sued by Town of Ulster, Woodstock and State of NY as well as Niagara if he engaged as mayor or as a voice on the water board. As Mike Hein said, it all had to be done legally and Gallo’s knowledge of what law can and cannot accomplish was a key to avoiding a calamity for the environment. In my past career as a communications consultant many of my client referrals came from attorneys who knew it was more a communications art form than a legal case with people who approached them for representation. It takes great experience to know best actions even when public opinion seems to be targeting blame.
Congratulations to accomplishing the Uptown stairs to the municipal parking, dealing as effectively and prudently as anyone in servant leadership is able to do with the sinkhole management and viewing the issue with a larger perspective of how to upgrade the degenerating infrastructure vs. patches that cannot work sustainably.
Good luck to Shayne Gallo on his new chapter and a big thank you to his legacy of improving the Midtown community and giving greater voice to diversity and creating new opportunities that will continue to flower.
Good luck to incoming Mayor Steve Noble. Kingston is a great community and working together is part of the beauty.
Gloria Waslyn, Kingston
It was great to see Bob Berman’s article “Going Solar.” [Dec. 31 edition.] He did an excellent job in breaking down the choices and the issues for homeowners. A few months ago I saw a reference in a business column that said “the Hudson Valley is awash in solar marketing.” There is a lot of interest and it is exciting to see solar arrays going up everywhere as you drive around the county.
However, there is an important piece to add: Solarize Hudson Valley — the non-profit, community-sponsored, New York State-supported project. The purpose of Solarize is simply to give people the information they need to decide whether solar makes sense for their home or business. We do this through community workshops and solar open houses, sponsored by volunteers who are your neighbors. By partnering with solar installation companies that are pre-certified by NYSERDA, our state energy authority, and qualified through a rigorous process to assure that they are financially stable (they’ll be around for a long time to come) and dedicated to best practices. We offer choices: roof mount or ground mount, lease or purchase, local or national company. Plus one more very important thing: our installers offer a group purchase discount so that the costs Bob cites in his article are actually 10 to 15 percent cheaper with our Solarize discount.
Bob mentioned three of the installers we worked with in 2015. Here are the other four: New York State Solar Farm (Gardiner), Lotus Energy (Hudson), Apex Solar Power (a regional company) and Direct Energy Solar (a national company).