A new 508-acre Hudson River park for Kingston?

A view of the land that may become a new state park. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

A proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would create a new state park on a rugged patch of land along the Hudson River straddling the City of Kingston-Town of Ulster border. But whether the proposed 508-acre park becomes a reality depends on voters’ approval in November of a $3 billion bond intended to preserve and restore natural resources, fight climate change and boost New York’s tourist economy.

The new park would consist of land once owned by real estate development titan AVR. The site, dotted with quarries, old cement works, forests and cliffs, was supposed to be the home of the proposed Hudson Landing project. The large-scale development would have created 1,658 units of housing, along with new commercial space and would effectively have created a new neighborhood in the city. The proposal was shelved in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis and the land has remained vacant ever since. Last year, the environmental nonprofit purchased the land from AVR for an undisclosed price and announced plans to create and operate a park at the site.

Advertisement

In his Jan. 8 State of the State address, Cuomo proposed the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act. The program would fund a wide array of environmental initiatives from restoring wetlands to creating a network of electric vehicle charging stations. Part of the proposal, which would need approval from voters in a ballot referendum, would pay for the acquisition and restoration of former industrial sites like the Scenic Hudson property.

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said that he had been involved in discussions with Scenic Hudson and state parks officials since last year to discuss the formation of the new park. Noble said that plans for the state park were still in the early stages, but he added that he believed both the city and Scenic Hudson would remain involved in the process.

“We are going to be a strong partner at the table,” said Noble. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up running some day-to-day operations in the future.”

While Noble said he was aware of the state’s interest in the site, Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley III said he was caught off guard by Cuomo’s proposal. About one third of the site lies within the Town of Ulster’s border. Quigley said he was still assessing the potential consequences of the of the park proposal. But, he said, he was concerned about the impact on the cash-strapped East Kingston Fire District if the land was removed from the tax rolls. Scenic Hudson is a nonprofit but has not yet filed for an exemption and continues to pay property taxes on the site.

“My concern here is that we will be losing tax revenues in one of the most financially challenged fire districts in the town,” said Quigley, who added that he intends to seek a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Scenic Hudson to offset any potential loss.

Quigley added that he was also concerned about the future of a 2012 agreement under which the town assumed responsibility for maintaining a waterfront promenade running through the property. Quigley said he had entered the agreement with the understanding that the land would eventually be developed and would bring additional property and sales tax revenue to town coffers. 

“My question is, will the town have to continue to pay for a trail running through a state park?” said Quigley.

Noble, meanwhile, downplayed the impact on city taxes should the land pass into state hands. Noble said the Kingston portion of the site was assessed at $4 million and generated about $60,000 in property taxes annually. Noble said the state could potentially continue to pay taxes on the land under a deal for the new park. Even if they don’t, Noble said, the financial impact would be offset by the sales tax and other economic benefits generated by thousands of visitors to the site.

Noble added that the proposed park fits in with Kingston’s economic development goals of promoting a low-impact tourism sector that could create revenue and jobs without taxing the city’s natural or financial resources.

“The tourism-based economy is not heavy on our resources, there’s not a lot of upfront costs,” said Noble. “But we reap the rewards of thousands of people coming to this destination.”

There are 5 comments

  1. Bill Berardi

    This is great for those who can afford the time and own a vehicle to get to this suburban park. Not much for the majority of City of Kingston residents who seem to be useful to the Mayor, School District and Grant organizations to fit the low economic demographic census to get them increased funding. Meanwhile the City parks – are sparse, not maintained nor or the Water, Sewer, street, sidewalks, streetlights and signs that the majority of City of Kingston residents rely on just to survive and get to school and work. Scenic Hudson may want to consider connecting to the majority of Urban dwellers in our inner City here where the children don’t have a piece of grass or a tree to play under rather than to just the elite boat and vehicle owners.

    1. Ted

      This park will be absolutely accessible to Kingston residents — ride your bike there, walk there, take a city bus there, or yes, if you happen to own a car I suppose you’d drive there. But this entire waterfront lineage will be accessible to one and all. If you can get to the Lighthouse, or the Kingston Rotary Park, you’ll be able to get here as well. And more so, because all of the Eastern facing neighborhoods of Kingston-Ulster will abut the length of the park.

  2. Heather Tripp

    Instead of a park what about fixing all abandoned buildings for the homeless and low income families who can’t afford the 1,000 homes without utilities and give us more things to do like bowling movie nights and other events instead of giving us a huge park

  3. Cheri

    For Kingston and area this could be huge economically.
    US State Parks has more than 807 million visitors in 2019.
    NY State Parks accounted for more than 71.5 million visitors the same year.
    A Hudson River Shoreline State Park will result in home-town green space that fronts one of America’s most
    historic, important rivers — from exploration and early settlement to the industrial and post-industrial eras.
    The potential to bring local, regional, state, and out-of-state visitors to our historic city and bucolic region
    is staggering, and can result in an economic push that lifts every single one of us up IF we want to be.
    Revenue from hotels, restaurants, fuel, tourism, and jobs. New settlement here that generates every kind of
    opportunity imaginable. Press attention. This is one major part of the local resurgence we are already seeing in the post-IBM manufacturing era. We can get on board or let this one leave us behind. Me? I’m on board.
    Oh, not to mention that it keeps a vital piece of our waterfront natural, healthy, and in tact – abandoned buildings and all.

  4. TheRedDogParty

    There is no denying the positive social, economic, and environmental impact of recognizing this land parcel as State parkland. I would go a step further: include Kingston Point Park, the lagoon, Lighthouse, and Trolley-Trail to Kingston Point in this scheme while declaring the entire parcel a wildlife refuge area. It is indeed, a very special place enjoyed by diverse populations of people coming from far and wide to enjoy this incredibly beautiful space. And it’s right here in Kingston.

    For those of you who are cynical about taking properties off of the tax roles, (thus) denying high paying jobs to the people of Ulster County and Kingston, a good portion of this property is in a flood zone. What sense is there in developing land that has the potential of flooding annually?

Post Your Thoughts