Lawsuit seeks to annul planning board ruling on Kingstonian project

(Editor’s note – this story was previously credited to Jesse J. Smith, but was actually written by Geddy Sveikauskas.)

An Article 78 proceeding was filed this past week seeking annulment of the Kingston Planning Board’s December 16 negative declaration of environmental impact on The Kingstonian project. The application filed by Creda, LLC argued that the unanimous planning board decision had failed to take the required “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the large mixed-use project, which consists of a 420-car garage, 143 apartments, a 32-room boutique hotel, a pedestrian plaza, and 9000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the northeast corner of Kingston’s Stockade district.

The planning board’s December 16 negative declaration said the board was “satisfied that the visual impacts of the project have been thoroughly examined and mitigated to the maximum extent practicable.” That standard wasn’t good enough, the Article 78 petitioner argued. When a project was deemed to have presented even one potential significant environmental impact, an environmental impact statement (EIS) was required to analyze mitigation measures. 

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Reduction but not elimination of a significant environmental impact didn’t justify a negative declaration by the lead reviewing agency, the reasoning went. The planning board hadn’t taken the required “hard look” at the adverse environmental impacts.

The Article 78 process requires petitioners to be directly affected (approximately 500 feet from it or less) to have standing. Creda, LLC said it has established tenancy and intends to open a Colonial-era tavern and restaurant called Ye Olde Stockade Tavern at 317 Wall Street. That building, once the home of Yallum’s store and then occupied as an office by British publisher Pearson, has been vacant for at least 15 years. As of early this week, there was no exterior evidence of renovation activity. 

In late November, real-estate investor Neil Bender’s Rhinebeck attorney wrote a brief urging the Kingston ZBA not to exempt The Kingstonian from a 20 percent set-aside for affordable housing. Such a policy would be discriminatory to owners of existing properties, attorney Victoria Polidoro wrote. 

One of Bender’s firms is the owner of 317 Wall Street.

“The determination incentivizes the demolition of historic structures and places the owners of existing buildings on a lower footing than owners of vacant lots,” Polidoro wrote. “The applicants are compelled to appeal the determination because of the disparate impact that it has on their ability to develop their properties for residential uses.”

Around that time, Andrea Shaut, now Kingston’s alderwoman-at-large, thanked the planning board for its hard work with “the complex dealings” of The Kingstonian. But she characterized as “discouraging” the board’s recent decision to quantify the proposal’s visual impact on the neighborhood as small rather than moderate or large in its possible impacts.  

Shaut wrote she believed a project if that size would inevitably have a significant visual impact on the neighborhood. “Many folks eagerly await positive aspects of The Kingstonian, but the desire of the positive impacts should not blind the possibility of consequences that such a development can bring,” wrote Shaut. “Only with diligent eyes and thorough process do I trust that this project can become a valuable asset to Uptown and the entire city.”

With the negative environmental declaration from the planning board in hand, The Kingstonian is now prepared to move on to addressing site-plan issues, satisfying other regulatory requirements, securing financing, and applying for tax relief from the county Industrial Development Agency. The process of securing the required approvals is a long and onerous one.

Property values in the Stockade have been increasing at a torrid rate. Demand for market-rate housing in attractive neighborhoods has been strong.

There are 9 comments

  1. Steven L. Fornal

    Unfortunately for Creda, LLC its stated intention to “open a Colonial-era tavern and restaurant called Ye Olde Stockade Tavern at 317 Wall Street” doesn’t hold any legal weight. ONLY if Creda, LLC had already put in an application for developing such a tavern, would this argument be viable.

    The PB will be vindicated. It looked extensively into the project’s impacts and subsequent revisions driven by public comments. That will be deemed a “hard look” for sure.

    This seems to be another example of weaponized opposition; viz., throw whatever and everything at the wall to see if anything sticks.

    It’s a wonder anything ever gets built anymore. People want their taxes lower. They want more jobs. They want better amenities like shopping and parking. But, they don’t want ANYTHING to change. Can’t have it both ways.

    This project may not be what some people want. But, it certainly is what many people need: More market rate housing and more affordable housing. Plus the city gets use of a much needed parking lot.

  2. Samuel

    The resistance is foolish. Ye-Old Whatever will need the residents and hotel guests to bring customers
    through their front doors. A new 508-acre State Park on our Hudson River waterfront; Radio Kingston’s newly announced performance space in development; The strong and positive growth in jobs in Kingston; all of these things are the ONLY thing that has pulled Kingston out of a 40-year long decline since the loss of IBM.

    The Kingstonian is EXACTLY the RIGHT PROJECT in EXACTLY the RIGHT LOCATION being developed by LOCAL DEVELOPERS WHO LIVE AND WORK RIGHT HERE!

    Stop the nonsense. This “lawsuit” is frivolous and a waste of time and money.

    Approve The Kinstonian. Get the shovels in the ground!!!
    Stop trying to kill the very thing that will BRING YOU MORE SUCCESS AND PROSPERITY.

    BUILD THE KINGSTONIAN!!!

  3. Susan

    Exactly what does this project do for the whole of Kingston? In the first place, the Kingstonian project seems to get bigger and bigger as time goes by. The size and scale alone of this project is likely to ruin the Stockade Historic District for the benefit of a few people’s pockets. Why does the city insist cramming a 420-car garage, 143 market-rate apartments, a 32-room boutique hotel, a pedestrian plaza, and 9000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the northeast corner of Kingston’s Stockade district? There are plenty of vacant lots in mid-town Kingston where 143 market-rate apartments could be built. Is a parking garage really needed here when city hall plans to build miles of protected bike lanes through midtown for the few people who ride them and the parking lots in Kingston Plaza remain half full or empty most of the time? Do we really need 9000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in that corner of Kingston when Kingston Plaza is right down the hill? Just who are these retail businesses and restaurants going to cater to? Seasonal tourists?

    Wake up! People are fighting this project with good reason. City Hall needs to focus its efforts on redeveloping the Broadway corridor and supporting small businesses there instead!

    1. tyler

      Here’s what it does for Kingston. And I can provide you a list of 200 other communities of similar size where similar developments have done the following:

      1. Fill in what are known in the urban planning world as “tooth gaps”. These are literally the worst thing a community can have in it’s midst, as the break the pedestrian landscape, leave vast swaths of empty land, typically surface parking lots exposed to the street scape, they create a sense of “dead space” and “isolation” on the urbanized landscape.

      2. Build on surface parking lots which are the primary source of all stormwater runoff. A building such as The Kingstonian has integral operations built in which are proven to help mitigate storm water runoff, keep local waterways cleaner, and also reduce the “heat islands” which surface parking lots are known to create in place just like ours.

      3. A healthy community has a wide-ranging “mix” of businesses, your issue with Kingston Plaza is bizarre at best. I am there daily and the lot fills and empties with different times of day just like any lot in any business district. Typically, it is nearly full. Further, you wouldn’t have a large grocery store up on Wall Street…so to clarify for your confusion, the scale of businesses on Wall Street will be similar to those already lining our streets. (This will also put some pressure on local Stockade property owners to finally clean up their own businesses. A walk down any block reveals cracks, peeling paint, old windows, poor upkeep of those much revered ‘local’ owner’s properties. The newbies in the neighborhood are the one’s bringing our historic properties up to modern code and standards, just so you know.

      4. Yesterday, the day before, the week before that, the months and years before that the Stockade has been ruined by vagrants, drunks, drug dealers, my friend. You’r elitist accusation that having new residents 24-7; new hotel guests; new workers; new business will ruin the Stockade is kind of insane. I prefer busy sidewalks, lights on at night with people living, working, and walking in the neighborhood.

      5. All of the numbers you quote are $ in your local pocket. Tax revenue, wages, hotel tax, parking tax, and human beings spending time and money in our neighborhood. Anyone feeling this is a bad thing is sorely out of touch.

      6. The historic quality of the Stockade is marred by a crumbling pocket park, the empty and paint peeling building adjacent, crumbling sidewalks, empty buildings, and yes surface parking where The Kingstonian will put the lights on, new trees in, public space that you are more than welcome to utilize and enjoy, and will fill in the giant gaping hole that is currently the site.

      7. Kingstonians who think that “restaurants are just to service toursists” are the problem. If you don’t have enough self-assurance to visit a restaurant in our Uptown or our Downtown that is all on you, dear. Restaurants are public space where you are always welcome to walk in, have a great meal, and enjoy the neighborhood. Any assertion otherwise is just another bald-faced “Trumpian” lie to scare people away.

      8. Shame. On. You!

    2. tyler

      Oh, in case you aren’t aware, Kingston just kicked off the most ambition re-design and upgrade of Broadway in our city’s history. Again, you are planting lies.

      Oh, and bike lanes are for people who bike; parking is for people who drive; and sidewalks are for people who walk – we welcome ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE HERE. Not just one kind.

      Oh, and the “few people’s pockets” will include anyone in Kingston who owns local businesses. Roughly 85% of all new business growth in the past 5-years is small business, locally owned, locally operated. These businesses help each other based on what is known as “critical mass” – it is needed to create a draw that brings people to a neighborhood. The dozens of new businesses and offices in Midtown are of the same origin…and yes, most of those people are “newbies”; “new residents”; and as much as you loathe “tourists” they account for the bulk of Kingston’s economy. Unless you are personally starting a major new corporation here, Susan, I’d really ask what are YOU doing for Kingston?!

      1. Susan

        Planting “lies.” I don’t think so. The development of real estate on the scale that would turn the fortunes of the city for more its residents lies on Broadway, not in the historic Stockade district. Broadway is the main corridor through the city from the Rondout to the Stockade district. There is plenty of empty space in the middle of city to build on the scale proposed for the Kingstonian.

  4. Steven L. Fornal

    Most excellent points, Tyler. You put your finger on a whole lot of why The Kingstonian should be welcomed. Great post.

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