Planners could decide scope of Kingstonian review June 3

An artist’s rendering of the Kingstonian proposal.

The city planning board could decide as early as Monday, June 3 just how extensive an environmental review will be for a major proposed residential, retail and parking complex in Uptown Kingston.

The board will hold a special meeting at City Hall at 6 p.m. that evening to solicit public input on the vetting process for the proposed Kingstonian project. The meeting is last scheduled open public hearing before the board is set to decide how to proceed with the Kingstonian’s environmental review.

“I can’t predict it, quite frankly,” said City Planner Suzanne Cahill when asked whether the board would issue a positive or negative declaration of environmental significance for the project at the meeting. “It depends on the comment that comes from the general public. It will be up to the board to make a decision.”


The proposed Kingstonian project would occupy two sites on either side of Fair Street Extension in Uptown Kingston. One site, on the corner of North Front and Wall streets would hold 129 units of market rate housing and a 420-space indoor parking structure. The plan states that 250 of those parking spots would be set aside for the public. On the Fair Street side, a brick warehouse owned by project co-developer Brad Jordan would be converted into a 32-room boutique hotel. The proposal also calls for 8,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza and a pedestrian bridge linking the site to Kingston Plaza. The project headed up by Jordan and Poughkeepsie-based JM Development Group is funded with $46 million in private investment and another $6.8 million in state grants. 

Supporters of the project say that it would expand the city’s tax base, create jobs and fill in a “missing tooth” in the streetscape left by the 2008 demolition of a city parking garage at the site.

But the proposal has faced opposition from those who believe the Kingstonian’s high-end apartments and boutique hotel rooms will speed up the pace of gentrification in the city and displace existing residents and businesses.

At issue at the June 3 hearing is how the planning board will proceed with its vetting of the project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The law requires the board to issue a declaration of positive or negative environmental impact. If the board goes with a positive declaration, it will trigger an extensive review that will includes the creation by the developer of a full environmental impact statement that lays out in detail how the developer will mitigate or eliminate all issues identified in a public “scoping” process. Alternatively, the board could issue a negative declaration of environmental significance based on the developers’ own studies and mitigation plans. JM Development Group has commissioned studies of the project’s impact and mitigation plans regarding stormwater runoff, traffic, archaeological resources and water and sewer infrastructure. Their findings will be presented to the public at the June 3 meeting. A “Neg Dec” would allow the project to continue to site plan review, which includes its own public comment process.

Developers frequently complain that the “Pos Dec” — the far more extensive SEQRA review — allows small numbers of opponents to slow down, obstruct and often kill a project with endless demands for expensive studies on relatively minor issues. But backers of the process for the Kingstonian say it’s the only way to ensure that the public has adequate input into a project that will significantly alter the character and look of the neighborhood. 

JM Development Group has remained largely silent, at least publicly, regarding the Pos Dec vs. Neg Dec issue. But last week, the developers’ attorney fired off a detailed rebuttal to statements made by Rebecca Martin, founder of the civic group, regarding the SEQRA process. Martin has been a staunch advocate for a full environmental review and organized a May 21 informational forum on the law and its requirements. Last week, Kingstonian attorney Michael Moriello issued a point-by-point analysis of statements made by Martin on the website. In the statement published on a promotional website for the project, Moriello said Martin, who is not an attorney, had mischaracterized elements of SEQRA law and ignored the law’s clear intent that the vetting process “shall not be a an exhaustive exercise in perpetual environmental review.”

“It is clear that Ms. Martin is seeking to mischaracterize a lawful and comprehensive SEQRA process in an attempt to cozen the City of Kingston Planning Board into summarily dismissing the Kingstonian project applicant’s rights under SEQRA,” wrote Moriello. “Therefore it is likely that ‘forum’ attendees will be treated to further conclusions, speculations and environmental hyperbole, all under the pretense of Ms. Martin’s political agenda.”

Martin denied having any agenda other than ensuring that the project underwent adequate review with sufficient input from the people who will be impacted by it.

“There’s definitely a significant environmental impact associated with this project and on its face I don’t know how it could be mitigated, I hope it can be,” said Martin. “I support [The Kingstonian] with a really well-executed study process that involves the public.”

There are 9 comments

  1. Aphrodite

    I used to support Ms. Martin’s efforts – particularly the Niagara Bottling takedown.

    Now that she has aligned and armed herself with local radical groups bent on imposing their ill-mannered will on the rest of us, I am much less inclined.

    Ms. Martin seems to believe that she is the one true arbiter on high of what goes in the development of our city. I hope in this case that she will be brought back down to earth in a resounding manner.

    1. Gayle M.

      “Radical groups”? Is it radical to press the city to adhere to the affordable housing goals it outlined in its Comprehensive Plan drafted a mere few years ago? Is it radical to expect the Mixed Use Overlay zoning district regulations to apply equally to all? Is it radical to advocate for a coordinated review process for a project of the Kingstonian’s size and scope? Niagara Bottling was stopped because of the substantial negative impacts exposed through SEQRA. GlidePath went from being a fossil fuel plant to battery storage because of SEQRA. It’s no doubt an imperfect review framework, but SEQRA still offers a more participatory and thorough review process than the one orchestrated by the city. We should all be on the side of good process. I believe that’s what has advocated for all along. Kudos to those “ill-mannered” groups for joining‘s call.

      1. Ralph Meeker


        Where it says on the five page form “Will there be blasting? (yes) (no) and the municipal entity allow the developer to type (type with a typewriter) in “maybe”, the review ain’t worth the paper it’s written on!

        1. Steven L. Fornal

          Ahh…But a maybe on a full EAF means the review board needs to consider that a YES. Especially if it involves blasting.

          SEQRA is only as good as the reviewers’ intent to do their job for the community they serve as opposed to developers.

      2. Tracy


        A developer has no obligation…nor should they! I guess new jobs, new tax revenue, and putting empty parking lots into actual active 24-hour per day parcels is so crazy we should just turn out the lights and let the welfare state run what’s left of Kingston?

        Is that REALLY what you want?
        I sure as heck don’t.

    2. Cheryle Watkins-Smith


      Truth to power is: I can drive down any block in any neighborhood in Kingston and there is decrepit housing, people who care nothing about where they live, social service dumping grounds, abandoned properties, few jobs.

      Then, I can drive down to neighborhoods where people are trying their hardest to open new businesses, fix up abandoned properties, create community, make safer streets…I vote for this. And I vote for this project which will take what is currently abandoned and cleared land as so many state here, and bring it back to life. In my mind that is not a bad goal, and it is not bad for Kingston.

      When did such a brood of haters and anti-progress people start to call themselves progressives all the while
      doing everything in their power to keep people down and out?!!?!??! They lie and they make fear. That’s sad and they are not welcome in Kingston as far as I’m concerned. Get on with it already. Build this damn thing!!!!!!!!!

  2. Susan Spencer Crowe

    The same old arguments are being made to bypass a full environmental impact study for a project as large as this one. As a citizen of Kingston and a taxpayer, I expect one. This project will significantly change uptown Kingston and I think that we need a very thorough review process with no short cuts. Aphrodite, I totally disagree with your characterization of Rebecca Martin and the work that the Kingston Citizens organization.

    1. marty

      You whine but you offer no substantive facts or information as to why developing EMPTY PARKING LOTS
      and putting new market rate apartments, offices, retail, and a hotel is bad for Kingston’s empty parking lots?
      Come on, you cry but you offer no honest or real offense!!! I think you are just classist and elitist…and wayyyyyy to PC for our own good.

      What exactly do YOU contribute to Kingston?
      Enlighten us.

  3. Terrance G.

    This is a good thing for Kingston and if you fight it, you honestly do not have any understanding of opportunity, economics, or how this project can add to Kingston’s quality of life.

    This fight against is total B.S.

    Here’s the “character that will change” — Empty parking lots will actually have people living and working on those sites; abandoned buildings and empty parking lots will actually generate revenue for Kingston and it’s
    residents. That is so horrible, I can’t think of anything worse…oh wait, EMPTY PARKING LOTS.

    I guess you want a city with few job prospects, little growth, and a continued social-welfare state that has killed many Kingston neighborhoods. Wow, so awesome.

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