The Kingston Planning Board’s determination that the proposed Kingstonian project won’t have an impact on the character of the Stockade district highlights the ethical, personnel and institutional deficiencies in our city government. It defies reality. In other news, the mayor’s office announced today that the emperor’s new suit is on its Best Dressed list and the Earth is flat.
You can support the project, but still have difficulty swallowing the planning board’s determination. You can support the project, but still want a process that complies with the law and reality. You can support the project, but still be disgusted with the lack of competency and integrity displayed by the city and planning board in their handling of the Kingstonian application.
It is obvious to anyone with eyes that putting a project of that size in the historical district will have an impact. It dwarfs every other building Uptown; it will require the closure of a street, it will significantly increase the population of Uptown and consequently increase the traffic flow, and it will permanently alter the character, aesthetic, and landscape of Historic Uptown Kingston (and that is separate from the use of public land and money for a project which predominantly benefits private developers. Why isn’t the city receiving rental income from the developers on the public land portion of the development?).
Tragically, we live in a city where ethics and professionalism are lacking in some of its public officials, employees and boards/commissions. To name a few examples:
• The mayor announced last March, more than six months before all the reports and studies had been completed and submitted, that the project would receive a negative determination. Ummm … how’d he know? This was inappropriate for several obvious reasons and exemplifies the mockery that was the “objective” review process.
• The planning board didn’t require the developers to submit a revised Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) even though the project had changed significantly from when the original form was submitted. Among these changes were the inclusion of an additional floor and an increase in the number of apartments by over 10 percent. Further the original form failed to address that portions of the property were erroneously zoned. Ummm … so the planning board’s determination regarding the environmental impacts is based on outdated and incorrect data. What could possibly go wrong? Why wouldn’t the board have required a revised EAF? Makes no sense.
• The chair of the Planning Board is a city employee whose career is subject to the mayor’s control. The mayor and his administration have made their support for the project clearly known and thus the employee has a clear conflict of interest. The appropriate standard is not to simply avoid impropriety, but the appearance of it. And the way to do that is to eliminate the potential for such conflicts. He should have recused himself from all discussion and voting on this matter. As a basic premise, city employees should not serve on city boards and commissions in a voting capacity.
It’s not simply the optics that stink. The city and the planning Board have undermined the credibility of the process so significantly they they’ve created a scenario where no project can ever receive a positive determination. Seriously, if the Kingstonian project (largest in uptown Kingston) doesn’t have an impact on the character of the neighborhood (historical district where New York’s first Senate met), then what project can ever satisfy that standard?
Consequently, what little trust the public still had in the Noble administration and its boards has been irreparably harmed. Let’s be honest, the mayor didn’t exactly win reelection in a landslide, he couldn’t break 60 percent against weak opponents. Current election results show him to have received over a thousand fewer votes than his alderwoman-at-large running mate, with Steve at 3,535 and Andrea at 4,563. These are Democratic voters, yet he had an almost 25 percent drop. The way to rehabilitate his image is to build trust. It’s not to take projects that haven’t been correctly vetted, like the Kingstonian or Planet Wings purchase, and shove them down our throats.
If he really wants to build trust, then he needs to provide transparency. And that includes having the developers open their books and show why 143 units (with 14 designated as “affordable”) are required for the project to be profitable. Show us why 112 units, with 12 apartments being “affordable”, isn’t doable. The project involves prime public land, a public street and public DRI money. If they want city assets, then show us the books.
Now please excuse me as I rewatch the videos from Trump’s largest0ever inaugural crowd.