Letter: The Kingstonian’s trinity of deficiencies

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?).

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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.

Neil Millens
Kingston

There are 2 comments

  1. SG

    …and the screaming “political” opposition to a legitemate plan continues.

    Any othe city, and I’ve lived in some of them, and by the way…they are doing better than Kingston
    economically, in population growth, and in equal representation and opportunities for all residents…would have already approved and gotten shovels in the ground.

    The biggest lie is that this does not dwarf every building. Also, it sits equally on Private Land and Public Land…which is empty, and not generating any revenue or jobs at the moment.

    The biggest and only mistake the developers, who are local by the way and are financing over 90% of the development with PRIVATE money, is that they did showed the renderings as seen from the lowest point in the Stockade…which makes that part of the building appear so large…when seen from The Stockade streetlevel it sits at exactly the same height as existing buildings!!!

    This is about optics as the writer says, and with those optics comes and ignorance, arrogance, and inability to understand how redeveloping a crumbling public pocket park with a new public space, an abandoned wareshouse, an abandoned diner, and multiple empty parking lots could possibly be bad?!

    I also question how people argue against building modern housing that serves people who work full-time jobs and want to live here…are we really so hell bent on being the low income social services city that we’ve been for so long? Are hard working career people now the scourge of modern society?

    The “activism” of stupidity and the perversion of reality is hard at work here appparently.

  2. Steven L. Fornal

    There are problems with the analysis of Neil Millens:

    “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.”

    Why not quote the Mayor’s alleged comment that the project would receive a Negative Declaration? Simply opining that there weren’t any major negative impacts re this project isn’t a declaration re process.

    “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?”

    The Planning Board doesn’t contend zero impact. Environmental Impact Study demands a look at impacts and the mitigation of those deemed too large. There were numerous changes to this project to lessen the impacts. The EAF isn’t required to be redone due to a 10 percent increase in units because that isn’t a significant increase and none of the infrastructure (re water, septic, waste water, etc) was changed by that ten percent increase.

    As far as the financing issues raised, investors invest for return deemed satisfactory to them. The various investors determined that the project as presented would meet their threshold. To have added affordable units was a large concession. Perhaps a little more charitable attitude towards that development would be appreciated. And, the Mayor did make an effort to focus on the need for affordable units. So, perhaps he should get a little appreciation also.

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