Despite the challenging year that 2020 was, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble says he is ready to tackle the new year by continuing to combat the virus, meeting residents’ needs, and investing in a number of different areas including essential services, parks and trails, infrastructure and housing.
Going into 2021, Noble expects another tough fight with the ongoing pandemic. Positive Covid cases have continued to rise and gatherings from December holidays are expected to see an effect into January. Throughout 2020, city employees helped keep the city running in different ways like volunteering to work the emergency food hotline, sort donations and to deliver meals.
Additionally, Noble has worked closely with small businesses to ensure that they were able to stay open and get the resources they need. Earlier in 2020, the City of Kingston created a web page for businesses with information on loan resources, the paycheck protection program, small business admin updates and more. They also issued a city-wide survey for the public to weigh in on utilizing public spaces for expanded outdoor dining and retail opportunities. With the favorable response, businesses were able to use sidewalks and other public spaces over the summer, which helped keep customers safe by being outdoors.
“Our community’s public health is our number-one priority right now, and through early 2021 that is going to have to stay top priority,” said Noble.
He is planning on continuing to facilitate ways to help educate the community on how they can protect themselves while also focusing on helping local businesses.
“As we go into 2021, we are going to continue to have conversations with our businesses and how to better support them,” said Noble. “We do think it is going to be a long road ahead still for our businesses.”
In November and December, the City of Kingston held a series of discussions inviting business owners to attend to begin talking about the ways in which the city can help them thrive.
Investing in key areas
Heading into 2021, a number of projects included in the capital plan will help grow the city “in the right and responsible way.”
“We have really ambitious plans for infrastructure improvements, everything from finishing the Broadway Streetscape Project to launching major sewer overhauls in 2021,” said Noble.
2021’s capital projects also include the realignment of the Broadway and Grand Street intersection, Wilbur Avenue reconstruction, Flatbush Avenue and Foxhall Avenue safety improvements, Dietz Stadium upgrades, DRI uptown transportation improvements, and Volunteer Fireman’s Museum improvements.
Additionally, the city plans to invest in infrastructure including city-wide paving, Elmendorf Street Bridge design and repair, Midtown parking-lots green infrastructure project, and Broadway’s sewer design.
With increased use of parks and trails during the pandemic, the City of Kingston has committed to investing more to maintain public outdoor spaces. “Parks and recreation are such a critical need for folks to get outside safely,” said Noble. “We are doubling our effort to make improvements and expand upon our parks.”
Residents can expect new playgrounds and playground updates, a refurbished pavilion at Hutton Park, a new soccer field and parking lot at Kingston Point Park, renovations at Andretta Pool including a new splash pad, and Rondout Neighborhood Center bathroom renovations, among other updates. Noble said he wants to ensure that the parks are accessible to all users as well. City employees have been busy with parks and recreation planning to prepare for the warm weather in the spring.
Another major sector Noble plans to focus on is the city’s housing.
“One of the things we’re definitely focused on is housing,” said Noble. “We need to do it appropriately and make sure we get the right mix of housing units because there are so many people looking to come to upstate New York, so we have to make sure our current residents aren’t displaced and that we have the right mix of housing.”
Noble has been in favor of The Kingstonian, a mixed-use $60-plus-million development project that includes a 143-apartment complex, 32-room boutique hotel, 8000 square feet of commercial/restaurant space, a pedestrian plaza, a footbridge to the Kingston Plaza, and a parking garage with 420 spaces (277 public). Residents can probably expect to see more discussion on throughout 2021.
In a recent presentation to the Ulster Chamber of Commerce, Noble highlighted what he believed would be potential benefits of The Kingstonian, including a public parking facility, public bathrooms, 14 affordable housing units, 153 new jobs, and over $1 million in payments to the local taxing jurisdictions.
Kingston Police Department
In 2020, the Kingston Police Department had a number of initiatives to help respond to increased crime and drug-related activities in the city. In August, the City of Kingston had a joint-task- force program in partnership with the state police, the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office to address the increase in gun violence and drug activity. Moving into November and December, the initiative switched gears and increased the number of police officers on foot in the community.
“The intention of the walking assignments is to provide additional visibility to our residents, creating a deeper connection to the community, and the added benefit of improving the officers’ wellness and health,” said Mayor. “We think it’s important for our officers to know the community and for the community to know the officers. We hope this initiative will work toward our ongoing efforts in building trust.”
One of the biggest initiatives the city is working on right now is the Re-envision Public Safety Task Force, which comes to an end in early 2021. The task force is in response to the state executive order 203, which requires local governments to adopt a policing reform plan. In Kingston, the task force will have a list of recommendations for the police department to enact. The mayor’s office and the Kingston Common Council will also be involved in this process.
“I think we’re going to have really exciting initiatives in 2021 relating to improving our mental-health system to helping improve the morale of the police department to making sure we’re having more voices heard,” predicted Noble.
The 2021 budget contains $100,000 to implement the recommendations of the task force.
“There’s a lot going on in Kingston,” said Noble. “And I think it’s my job as mayor to help move all of these projects forward, but do so in a way that also allows us to connect with all of our residents.”
Noble hopes to create a community that “cares for one another,” especially in a time of pandemic.