Tony’s Pizzeria on Broadway was pretty nicely packed on Monday, March 27 as the Kingston Land Trust held a gathering to present its new executive director, Julia Farr, and to rally itself for the year ahead.
“It it’s anything I know how to recognize, it’s a rock star,” said Andi Turco-Levin, chair of the KLT board, wife of actual rock star Tony Levin and a veteran of the radio and record business, in her introductory remarks. “In Julia I do believe we have one. You have no idea how blessed we are to have Julia with us.”
“We protect, connect and activate open spaces in Kingston,” Farr said in explaining the not-for-profit land trust’s work. “We do that through purchasing properties, land matching and collaborating with both public and private landowners.”
Farr, who worked with the Local Economies Project’s Farm Hub in Kingston before joining the KLT earlier this year and who’s also participated in the efforts of Live Well Kingston, the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and the Center for Creative Education, said she’s been reaching out to business owners along Broadway and encouraged those in attendance to expand the trust’s reach via social media.
The KLT’s flagship project, in conjunction with the city and the county, is the Kingston Greenline, an in-progress network of “complete streets” (i.e., streets that are easily usable by cars, bicycles and pedestrians) and urban trails envisioned to run through the city and connect with the county trail system and down to the Hudson River. Farr said the Empire State Trail, a Gov. Cuomo proposal for a 750-mile trail bike and walking path from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo, will run through the Greenline. The trust’s second-biggest deal is the South Pine Street City Farm, an urban agriculture project entering its seventh season.
Last year’s initiatives included a natural resources inventory and open-space mapping, as well as the purchase of a small parcel on Hurley Avenue. This year, the trust hopes to open at least one of the six properties in the city, the Town of Ulster and the Town of Hurley it owns to the public. The KLT will also, with the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, host “facilitated conversations” in Spanish once a month at one of the seven Latino restaurants on Broadway. (Several in attendance, including Farr, wore stickers with the words “Soy bilinguë” written upon them to indicate their facility with Spanish.) Organizers hope to build links with the Spanish-speaking community in Kingston and build mutual awareness of land and food issues. The first one will be April 19 from 6-7 p.m. at Mi Ranchito.
Also, the trust hopes to research and map alternative land use strategies, Farr said. “We want to focus on the neighborhoods that have the least access to land and think about a future participatory process for those communities to identify underutilized land for community spaces,” said Farr, to applause. “We’re bringing on some interns to help with that.”
In attendance was one of the land trust’s founders — Mayor Steve Noble. (Noble and Art Zaczkiewicz started the organization back in 2008; Noble was a longtime board chair and Zaczkiewicz executive director.)
“We have really grown and I think that you all are an amazing example of what a community of people who care about Kingston, care about the environment in Kingston, care about our food, care about how we connect with each other and how we move around this city and to be able to see the Kingston Land Trust grow, it’s really humbling,” said Noble. “More now than ever we have an administration which really understands the value a land trust can play in a community.
“Julia and the board have a really exciting vision for Kingston,” the mayor continues, adding that the KLT needs both the time and the money of its supporters to keep going. “There’s so much work to do, still.”