I’m a neighbor of the proposed Irish Cultural Center (ICC) on Abeel Street in the Rondout. I’ve been voicing my concerns about the size and location of the project for some time, and I will clarify what those concerns are, but first I want to say that I am actually for another cultural center in the Hudson Valley.
I think a center that offers classes and becomes a cultural hub is a terrific idea. I’m just opposed to the spot that the ICC has chosen, the scope of the proposed project, and the fact that zoning and planning rules that apply to all other builders seem to not be in effect for this project.
I’m not sure how zoning for their lot got reversed to accommodate a commercial building of this size. Every other property owner I’ve spoken to in the area has been delayed and/or denied when their (much smaller) projects didn’t meet very specific criteria adhering to Kingston’s parking regulations and to the Rondout’s historic district regulations. Somehow that vetting process seems to be utterly lacking with the ICC project.
The ICC plans to pave the entirety of the lot (all the other buildings on that block have landscaping, they took down all the trees back in 2013). They also plan to reverse the building so that it faces the water, while every other building has its front and address on Abeel Street, and their design has no windows on three sides of the building, which could negatively impact both the beauty of the area and the value of the neighboring properties.
There are very strong concerns about light bleed, noise decibel levels (the “canyon effect”, where sound echoes off the water and up the hill is a very real problem in the neighborhood). I’m worried about kitchen exhaust fans blowing into neighboring residences from their massive event space.
Those everyday concerns are coupled with the fact that the ICC took it upon themselves to begin to cut branches off the sycamore trees along Company Path (which are on city property, not their lot), as well the fact that after doing digging at the end of December 2015, they left the lot muddy and an eyesore, simply does not bode well for a good neighbor relationship with the rest of the beautiful and historic Rondout.
Allowing the project to proceed as planned could very well be a decision Kingston will come to regret.
Again, adding a new cultural hub could be a great resource, but permanently changing the historic face of the downtown area, reversing long-term zoning and planning rules and regulations, and toying with an already over-burdened parking situation, could be a real detriment to Kingston.
At the very least, let’s make sure the process is public and transparent.
Maia Macek, Kingston
The end of growth
Social Security for Kingston — yes, you are hearing it here first. In May of 2016 the present mayor went to the chief executive of Ulster County and signed the city up. In June the Common Council approved his decision and in essence put the city on financial life support effective Jan. 1, 2018. Here is how this scenario plays out. The city budget — all figures are approx estimates — is 75 percent fixed costs salaries and benefits — Obamacare, worker’s comp, state retirement, state police and firemen’s, pension system.
So if the city budget is $36 million, then $24 million is salaries and benefits. Needless to say it is a safe assumption, that in total, if the fixed costs go up just half of 1 percent, that is an increase of $1.2 million. The question is, how do you raise that kind of additional revenue?
The answer is you basically have two choices, property taxes and sales tax. The fact of the matter is, however, the sales tax was the one hedge against this ever-increasing cost of personnel and/or inflation. But now the city will be on Social Security. When it signed up, it was given the maximum amount it would receive as of Jan. 1, 2018. Just like every senior citizen, this is the amount. The best a senior can look for is a cost of living increase, but the city, with the sales tax agreement, did not even get a guarantee of that. For the life of the agreement the amount is etched in stone.