The City of Kingston used to be an affordable place to live, but that is changing rapidly. According to the Kingston Tenants’ Union, since 2002, rents in the city have increased by 50 percent, while wages decreased slightly. Evictions are up 65 percent since 2016. The city is in the midst of a rent crisis, defined as having a vacancy rate of five percent or less for rental properties. While the revitalization of former industrial properties in Midtown, driven largely by the sweat equity of artists, has been lauded and now formalized as an Arts District, this process is a double-edged sword that almost inevitably leads to gentrification and the displacement of working-class residents if deliberate planning measures are not part of the picture.
Enter Samuel Stein, author of Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso Books, March 2019), who will be speaking this Sunday evening at Rough Draft. With the industrial economy shrinking and some 60 percent of global assets now invested in real estate, following the stock market collapse that triggered the Great Recession, Stein argues that development interests now wield disproportionately high influence over municipal governments and the urban planners who work for them. Developer-driven planning ultimately serves the interests of wealthy investors rather than those of urban residents. If places like Kingston are not to become enclaves for highly paid Manhattan-bound commuters, decisions need to be made now at the city government level that prioritize enabling current residents to stay over attracting outsiders with deep pockets to pay higher property taxes. Capital City explains the role of planners in what Stein has dubbed “the real estate state,” as well as the remarkable power of planning to reclaim urban life.
On Sunday, September 8 from 5 to 7 p.m., Stein will read from Capital City, and will then be joined by Betsy Kraat, a founding member of the Kingston Tenants’ Union, for conversation and an audience question-and-answer session. Rough Draft has invited local politicians, developers, homeowners and renters to attend an event that owners Amanda and Anthony Stromoski hope will be “eye-opening and educational for all.” Admission is free, and Capital City is available at Rough Draft before and during the event for ten percent off the cover price. Beverages and refreshments can be purchased at the bar.
Samuel Stein reading Capital City, Sunday, Sept. 8, 5-7 p.m., Free, Rough Draft Bar & Books, 82 John St., Kingston, (845) 802-0027, www.roughdraftny.com