Petition seeks to ensure Kingstonian will get full environmental review

A rendering of the Kingstonian, with North Front Street in the foreground.

A citizen’s group is calling for an in-depth study of potential negative impacts of a large mixed-use project planned for Uptown Kingston.

In a petition addressed to the City’s Planning Board, the group KingstonCitizens.org calls on the board to issue a “positive declaration of environmental significance” — called Type I — under the state environmental quality review process for the proposed Kingstonian project. The designation, which would mean developers would have to pay for the study or studies required, would add months or even years to the project’s review process. The online petition has garnered 200 supporters so far.

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“[The petition] is a chance for the public to understand the [State Environmental Quality Review Act] process from the very beginning,” said Rebecca Martin of KingstonCitizens.org. Martin added that it’s important the public understand the intricacies of approving such a large proposal and know when their input will have the most impact on deliberations. While she said she thinks a Type I declaration for the Kingstonian is very likely, she did note that some projects that she thought would have been a natural for a full review were instead deemed to be Type II actions that would not, according to state law, affect the environment.

The proposal by JM Development Group calls for a mixed-use, multi-site project at the corner of North Front Street and Fair Street Extension. The project incorporates 129 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental apartments that would start at $1,350 per month, a boutique hotel and 8,000 square feet of commercial space. It also calls for a new parking structure with 420 spaces, 250 of which would be public. The proposal also envisions one or two restaurants and a public park.

The project would be split between two sites. A new building at a site of the current large municipal parking lot would house the rental units. A brick warehouse across Fair Street Extension from the lot would be converted into a hotel. The project also incorporates a parcel at the intersection of Schwenk Drive and Fair Street Extension currently occupied by the recently closed Uptown Grill.

The entire project is expected to cost $52 million. Of that, $46 million will come from private investors. The remainder will be paid through public grant funding. Among the grant funding set aside for the plan is $3.8 million of a $10 million “Downtown Revitalization Grant” awarded to the city in 2017 for economic development projects in and around the Stockade District. That money will fund the removal of underground infrastructure at the site and other site prep work.

The project marks the latest effort to develop an underutilized area in the heart of the city’s Uptown Business District. In the mid-2000s a proposal to build a 10-story residential tower at the site of the parking lot fell through after the developer pulled out, citing the length and expense of the review process. Over the years, the city has repeatedly issued “requests for proposals” seeking a developer for the site with no takers.

The current project, a partnership between Orange County-based developer Joe Bonura Jr. and Kingston Plaza owner Brad Jordan, has the backing of Mayor Steve Noble.

“This is something that we and many other administrations over the years have tried to get done,” said Noble. “I feel that now we have the right public-private partnership.”

Despite the promise of major private investment coupled with state grants, the Kingstonian proposal has drawn pushback from affordable housing advocates and others who worry the proposal will accelerate the pace of gentrification in the city and push out existing residents and businesses. Others, echoing the arguments that helped sink the earlier Teicher plan, say the Kingstonian is simply too big and out of keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood. The KingstonCitizens.org petition cites both issues in calling for extensive study of the potential negative impacts of the plan.

How it would work

If the planning board issues a positive declaration, the next step will be the development, with public input, of a “scoping document.” The scoping document will identity potential negative impacts, covering everything from traffic to impact on city schools.

It will then be up to the developer working in conjunction with consultants appointed by the city to produce an environmental impact statement which will lay out in detail how each of the negative impacts cited will be eliminated or mitigated in the final site plan proposal.

Currently, the review process is on hold for a mandatory 30-day period to determine who will serve as “lead agency” in the review. The planning board, as is customary, has announced its intention to serve as lead agency. If no other entity steps forward to claim lead agency status, the board will formally take on the role in March. After that, discussion can begin on how to proceed with the remainder of the review.

“At this stage of the review process the planning board has only expressed their intent to serve as lead agency and that’s it,” said City Planner Suzanne Cahill.

There are 10 comments

  1. terrence

    …and we watch the small but too-loud NIMBYs of Kingston bite off our nose in spite of our face. This petition is a joke. The site is in no way environmentally sensitive — it is a crumbling street-level ‘plaza’; a vacant parking lot; an abandoned building that had it’s “historic character” stripped away by its owners more than 40-years ago; it is vacant properties that contribute zero to the city of Kingston, or the neighborhood.

    It is insane, fanatical, crazy, unimaginable that there is push-back on this. Arguing affordable housing is also
    a joke — no housing is being removed or denied with this proposal, it is being ADDED to our housing stock, and will put people in those homes who would otherwise be going into our older neighborhoods and taking away
    affordable housing. By not building this kind of housing, these “petition folks” are actually forcing gentrification into the very neighborhoods they claim to want to protect.

    This petition is illogical, foolish, and frankly stupid. It serves no one, except a nutty band of people who would rather see Kingston not grow, not gain new residents, not gain new jobs, new revenue or new opportunity.

    The proposal is not over-sized or too big because it actually sits on a footprint that is 40+ feet “below grade” in the Stockade, so Wall Street building lines are 100% in line with the current elevations of all surrounding, existing buildings. And the Schwenk Drive elevations are topping out at the exact same heights and the existing buildings top out from the Schwenk Drive view shed.

    There is aboslutely no reason to fight this plan, except that a band of who knows what is hell-bent on holding the rest of us back.

    DO NOT GIVE IN TO THIS NONSENSE.

  2. pd

    This is the time for Kingston to show that it actually welcomes investment and the promise of economic benefit, as opposed to another un-necessary bike lane which doesn’t bring any long term job.

  3. Sam

    So here’s the hitch for Kingston, preservation land vs. development — I love the announcement in this
    publication that the land at Tilcon will be preserved as natural open space BUT it does come with that hard
    issue – that 500-acres will now come off the tax roles permanently. Zero revenue will come into town from it other than tourism dollars, which are touted as the benefit.

    So when we as Kingstonians are busy fighting against revenue generating developments that make 100% sense in our urbanized areas — The Kingstonian, The Irish Cultural Center, the Rondout Waterfront residential project, the Hutton Brick Yards development — what exactly do we think will be the end benefit? All of our land can’t be locked in non-profit preserved lands. We’ll go out of business quick. The Greenkill Bridge, the sink hole, the
    replacement of ancient water mains on Albany Avenue all cost money and must be done to keep us functioning!!!

    So we need to get behind those projects — The Kingstonian, The Irish Cultural Center, the Rondout Waterfront residential project, the Hutton Brick Yards development — because we need the new residents, we need the tax revenue they’ll generate, we need the retail sales they’ll generate, we need the tourism, hotel tax revenues they’ll generate.

    Both can not exist without the other. So I’d ask all of our militant residents to really pause and think about this. The Kingstonian, for example, does not need environmental review petitions! It is the right project for the
    abandoned commercial sites that it will bring back to life. The Irish Cultural Center will generate a ton of tax
    revenue and sales for our Rondout business district, and so on…if we truly want preserved open lands then we also have to put new growth in these proper places that are already urbanized and populated.

    It’s a fact no one seems to want to shout from the rooftops, so look up, and listen.

  4. Jim

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments above that are in favor this project. Terrance, PD and Sam have raised excellent points that this is a time that Kingston, and Ulster County as a whole need to show that it is pro business, and pro growth in an area that is desperately needing new, good well paying jobs.

    Unfortunately, the people behind KingstonCitizens.org have a history of fighting every piece of progress that is looking to move in this area, i.e. the Niagara Bottling Plant. They look at anti-business as a success. What they fail to realize is, or choose to ignore is that we have an aging population and no motive for young people to move in with new ideas if everything gets fought tooth and nail. While tourism is important to any community, it can’t be the only thing that drives us. As a local business owner, I meet with representatives from Ulster County regularly to discuss these issues, and one of the main things we talk about is lack of housing. The Kingstonian project accomplishes both a housing shortage and is a place for tourists to flock to by the creation of a promenade for both local residents and people from out of the area to enjoy.

    The people behind this project, do a great job with everyone property they open. Everyone of their establishments that I have been to is top notch and everything is done professionally, so I have no doubt that this project has the same intentions.

    We need more voices to show the people who are willing to pour this much money into something that we want your investment, not make them want to spend it elsewhere.

  5. Joe

    everyone that has commented is totally right. We have way too many tree huggers in this county that want to kill everything. They believe that all business people are direct decedents of the devil and evil people. They don’t want anything and unfortunately our government has created an environment where they get a voice when they shouldn’t. I am totally against development without controls but this proposal in uptown Kingston is totally beautiful and will bring in more people – people who are going to spend money in our county.

    There are so many young people I know that can’t wait to leave this area because there is nothing here for them. let’s create some jobs. Let’s bring in new employers that create good paying jobs. I am a someone who was born in Kingston and lived in Saugerties my entire life. I am a business owner employing 60 people. We would hire more if there were qualified people available. if we hired more then we would be pumping more money in the Ulster county economy but these people don’t exist in our area because there are fewer and fewer good jobs around.

    Its a fact – people go to wherever there are good paying job.

    I am all fall the rail trail and promoting tourism. I think its great that we have TV shows and movies being filmed in our towns. But… its time we bring in good paying jobs. Most of our shop in Albany, Nanuet or NJ because there are so few stores in our area. Imagine if we actually had a large number of people making a living wage in Ulster County and our mall was full of stores and those sales tax dollars stayed here.

    Its time those of us that want to see businesses in our area grow and prosper begin speaking up and drive out the tree huggers. There is no good reason that Niagara Bottling didn’t locate here. its a travesty.

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