Final approval was given to The Kingstonian by the Kingston city planning board on Monday, October 17, clearing the way for the development, which includes many luxury apartments, some affordable housing, a large parking complex, and a redesign of the surrounding streetscape. Though the community still holds wide-ranging opinions on the potential positive and negative impacts of this development, many are united in understanding that The Kingstonian will bring considerable change to Uptown Kingston.
Mayor Steve Noble took to Facebook the following day, saying in a lengthy post that he was “thrilled to see this project move forward, and to see the positive changes that The Kingstonian will bring to our community.”
Comments replying to the post were split between praise for the mayor’s work and harsh criticism, echoing lingering the divisive public sentiment present throughout the whole planning process. Proponents see the development as an essential move to address the housing crisis, in addition to the parking concerns which have plagued Uptown Kingston for well over a decade. Detractors have decried the lack of affordable housing in the original plan, as well as the aesthetics of the project. There were also at least a dozen lawsuits seeking to halt the project filed by William Gottlieb Real Estate, led by Neil Bender. Over the course of several years, Bender purchased a number of Uptown properties, including the building that used to be BSP.
It was a a long and winding road to this week’s final approval, beset with lawsuits, public outcry, and many meetings and studies.
“The Kingstonian project is one of the most studied and involved community-input processes we’ve ever had, and I believe the project has improved through each step in its evolution,” Noble said of the lengthy and laborious planning period. “By taking into account considerable community feedback on design, adding an affordable housing component, and making changes to the original Pilot agreement providing all taxing jurisdictions with additional payments, the developers have been willing to adapt this project and respond to community feedback. The end result is the best project for the community at exactly the right time for our Uptown business district.”
The mayor had extremely harsh criticism for Bender, his most well-resourced detractor, writing: “Throughout this process, community feedback has improved the project. This is how civic engagement should work, and I’ve always highly valued public input. However, frivolous lawsuits from a New York City corporation, have taken away from the housing and economic opportunities that Kingston residents deserve. This opponent of the project could be using his time, energy, and Uptown properties to meet the community’s needs, but instead he is committed to spreading disinformation about the project and wasting untold taxpayer dollars. With full-page ads, he and his associates have lied about our fire department, lied about the city’s demand for housing, and lied about the great work of our recreation commission. The William Gottlieb Real Estate’s unprecedented litigation onslaught has been disingenuous at best, and destructive at worst to our community. I believe the outcome of last night’s planning board decision shows that, even though an entity like his may have unlimited resources, good will always prevail. And here, the good is for the City of Kingston and our community.”
To say the project, when completed, will have considerable impact particularly on the Stockade area of Uptown Kingston is an understatement. A date for the start of construction has not yet been announced.