The Kingston City Common Council voted 7 to 2 this Thursday night to allow the partial abandonment of a 400-foot strip of asphalt known as the Fair Street Extension. The vote marked a milestone in the years-long effort to build the mixed-use development known as The Kingstonian in the Stockade district.
A pedestrian plaza lined by restaurants and shop fronts.
will spatially unite a parking garage and apartment complex with a hotel and to be bordered by restaurants and shop fronts.
Alderpersons Tony Davis, Michael Olivieri, Carl Frankel, Steve Schabot, Rennie Scott-Childress, Rita Worthington and Barbara Hill voted for the partial abandonment. Freshman alderwoman Naimah Muhammad, who did not expound on her reasons. sided with alderwoman Michelle Hirsch in dissent.
“I read somewhere,” said majority leader Rita Worthington, “If Rita Worthington votes yes on that, it would be political suicide .… Well, not many people in my ward have discussed with me the abandonment of the Fair Street Extension. What they have discussed with me is affordable housing.”
Worthington, who represents Ward Four, highlighted the concession made by developers to provide ten percent of the apartments at affordanle rents.
Michelle Hirsch explaioned her opposition. “The street belongs to the people, whether they are renter, homeowner, or unfortunately a homeless resident,” Hirsch said.
Thwarting the wishes of civic-minded Kingstonians with a yen to attend the proceedings in person, the meeting was held remotely. Kingston mayor Steve Noble and alderoersin-at-large Andrea Shaut had released a statement along placing the blame for the format change on a broken microphone system in the main chambers. Their choice of virtual-only. as opposed to in-person or hybrid, was made
“to ensure that we can conduct the [rescheduled] meeting without further interruptions.”
The partial abandonment of a public street has been a contentious one.
Alderman Steven Schabot was a yes vote. Schabot was the recent subject of a complaint submitted to the city ethics board over an alleged conflict of interest in this matter. Schabot is a part-time employee of Herzog’s Supply Company, a business owned by the Jordan family of Kingston, one of whose principals, Brad Jordan, os one of the debelopers. That board ruled the complaint unsubstantiated.
At the center of so much back and forth is the short publicly owned street which descends down a small hill, It is the linchpin in the plans for The Kingstonian.
The Jordans controls land on either side of the road as well as the mall and parking lot known as the Kingston Plaza, a shopping and transportation hub where Ulster County Area Public Transit buses stop and where the Catskill Mountain Railroad begins.
Developers and alderpersons alike have taken great pains to discourage the notion that the partial abandonment is anything like a free giveaway. The developers must act as temporary stewards to the land, and though they may build on top of it, in no legal sense do they own it. They are compelled to build public restrooms there and must maintain them for the next 25 years. They must construct, maintain, and operate the pedestrian plaza, which will be free and open to the public during the same hours as other city parks.