More than 20 speakers at the February 2 meeting of the Common Council spoke out against the possible transfer of the Fair Street Extension to the developers of the Kingstonian Project, a mixed-use development that would straddle that stretch of the street between Schwenk Drive and North Front Street.
The two-hour long public comment period came in response to a letter Kingston Mayor Steve Noble sent to Common Council President Andrea Shaut prior to the meeting. In it, the mayor said the city would not need the parcel that is now the site of a city-owned parking lot anymore and its transfer to the Kingston Local Development Company (KLDC) would allow the project to move forward.
Tuesday night’s comments looked ahead at what is suspected to come – a request to abandon Fair Street Extension.
“There has not yet been, so far as I know, a request to abandon Fair Street,” said Common Council Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress. “But one should be coming soon.”
Scott-Childress said that the anticipated request and vote on it have not been scheduled yet.
Residents said that eliminating the street could cause connectivity issues, create confusion and that the city-owned street is for the community and taxpayers.
Other opposition expressed during the Common Council meeting related to the inclusion of Kingstonian developer Brad Jordan on the KLDC.
“I oppose giving away the Fair Street Extension or any city property to a for-profit project that will benefit wealthy developers far more than it will the residents of Kingston or Ulster County,” said Sarah Wenk. “How much more of our city and our money should we be expected to put in the pockets of developers who can’t even guarantee there will be an increase in parking spaces?”
She said the residents should know the assessed value of the Fair Street Extension and a public comment period before the council makes an ultimate decision on whether or not they will give it to the developers.
“I believe this is not in the interest of those who currently reside in the city of Kingston,” said Rose Quinn, Kingston resident and Coordinator of Traffic Safety Education at SUNY Ulster. “As the rightful owners of the majority of the property, being offered as a gift and without compensation, we need more time to understand the gravity of what is being asked here.”
Quinn said giving up a city street to private developers “should not be taken lightly.” Quinn, similar to Wenk, called for more information on the transfer so the public can decide.
It’s uncertain if a no vote from the Common Council on abandoning Fair Street Extension would derail the project.
“The closing of Fair Street is a major aspect of the plan given its current design and orientation,” said Scott-Childress. “The decision whether to continue with the Kingstonian project if Fair Street is not abandoned is up to the developers. I can’t speak for them.”
Kingstonian developers did not respond to a request for comment on this question.
The Kingstonian would be home to 143 residential units, have a parking garage with a total of 420 spaces (277 public) 8000 square feet of commercial/restaurant space, a 32-room boutique hotel, a pedestrian plaza and a footbridge to the Kingston Plaza. Last month it was granted a tax-deal worth approximately $28 million from the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency.