Mayor Steve Noble said this week he will seek a second four-year term in office where, he said, he’ll build on the accomplishments of his current term while striking a balance between the need to expand the city’s tax base by attracting new residents and businesses and the need to protect the city’s working class neighborhoods from the impact of gentrification.
“So much has been done, but there are still a lot of projects left to do,” said Noble.
Noble, a former employee of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, was elected in 2015 after beating incumbent Shayne Gallo in a Democratic primary and Republican Ron Polacco in the general election. Since then, he’s pursued a pragmatic progressive vision for Kingston that includes an emphasis on quality of life and, more recently, preserving affordability and neighborhood stability in a surging real estate market.
Noble’s record includes three consecutive budgets with no increase in the tax levy, buoyed in part by an increased reliance on state grants to fund everything from replacement of aging sewers to a part-time coordinator for the city’s health and wellness efforts. Under Noble’s tenure, the city’s grant portfolio has increased from about $8 million to more than $30 million. Noble’s 2019 budget calls for the creation of a grants management department to administer the flow of state and federal aid. Noble has also overseen the implementation of a number of beautification and improvement projects — for example, a rail trail connecting Midtown and the Rondout and a major upgrade of the Broadway Corridor — that began under his predecessor. Noble has also placed an emphasis on improvements in Midtown, which contains the city’s poorest census tracts.
Noble’s tenure has coincided with a rush of investment in Kingston real estate that in turn has led to growing concerns about displacement of longstanding residents and businesses. To combat it, Noble oversaw the creation of a Kingston Land Bank that, using grant funding, plans to renovate 35 foreclosed houses and market them to first-time homebuyers. Noble has also proposed new protections for tenants, including a ban on landlords refusing to rent to those using federal housing assistance vouchers.
“There’s a growing need for housing of all types in our community, that’s become a focal point for people,” said Noble. “And that’s stuff I’ve been talking about since 2016.”
Concerns about gentrification has also led to some pushback against the kinds of tax-base expanding projects like boutique hotels and a proposed mixed-use development in Uptown Kingston that would have been welcomed in all quarters a decade ago. Moving forward, Noble said, he would take his cues from the city’s newly updated comprehensive plan. The plan, which calls for more density, a variety of housing types and a robust and varied transportation infrastructure, served as an important tool for managing growth, Noble said.
“There are going to projects that some people like and there are going to be projects that some people don’t like,” said Noble. “But I’ve been trying to show that we are still growing smartly.”
oble’s announcement — he’s set a campaign kickoff for next month at Ole Savannah — comes at the start of a campaign season that has been compressed after state lawmakers voted to approve a package of campaign reforms that include moving the primaries from mid-September to late June. Party conventions will take place sometime next month and petitioning for spots on the ballot in March.
No one has yet officially stepped forward to challenge Noble, in either a primary or a general election. But Vincent Rua, a Kingston native who returned to the city a few years ago, has set up a website touting his candidacy with Shayne Gallo listed as his chief legal advisor. Rua, who operates a custom men’s clothing business, formerly served on the Kingston Republican Committee. Two years ago, Rua helped organize a slate of candidates to run for the Common Council and Ulster County Legislature under the slogan “Restore Kingston Pride.” After a largely unsuccessful campaign, Rua announced that he was stepping down from the committee.
State election records do not show any campaign committee affiliated with Rua’s name and he did not return a phone call seeking comment on his candidacy.