Majority of speakers at Kingston hearing support abandoning streets to make way for Kingstonian – Daily Freeman

KINGSTON, NY – The overwhelming majority of speakers at a public hearing on Wednesday before the Common Council came out in favor of abandoning Fair Street Extension to pave the way for the mixed-use development project known as from Kingstonian.

Of the 70 people who spoke at the three-hour hearing at George Washington Elementary School, 56 spoke in favor of abandoning the road and 14 spoke against the city giving control of the roadway of a block to the developers. Of those opposing the abandonment, only six were not affiliated in some way with Neil Bender, a New York real estate investor and ardent opponent of the project.

Bender, who owns several vacant properties in and around Uptown Kingston where The Kingstonian would be located, has filed through his various LLCs a number of lawsuits against the city in an attempt to thwart the project.

Wednesday’s hearing was the result of a settlement of a lawsuit against the city by Bender and Kingston School Board Chairman James Shaughnessy Jr., who argued that “serious flaws” in the hearing of December 2 had prevented meaningful and legally sufficient public participation. Eighty people spoke at the December 2 public hearing. The Common Council voted on December 8 to abandon the strip of road, but reversed that vote as part of the settlement.

Dozens of residents take part in a city hearing in the auditorium of Geroge Washington Elementary School in Kingston on Wednesday evening Jan. 12, 2021. The hearing drew dozens of speakers on the abandonment of Fair Street Extension to make way to The Kingstonian project. (Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)

“I believe this project in the City of Kingston will give us something to be proud of for many years to come,” said Quentin Johnson, a resident of the city.

It was a refrain echoed by many supporters who said The Kingstonian would bring new vitality to an area that desperately needed it.

Uptown resident Kathy Mihm said the project “will be a complete asset to Uptown.”

Ward Todd, chairman of the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the organization supports the project and believes the pedestrian plaza planned by the developers for the Fair Street extension is “the best and highest use” of the property.

Part of The Kingstonian project includes the creation of a public plaza, which would be built above the upper part of Fair Street Extension.

“I can’t remember a project that gives all of us so much at no cost to taxpayers,” he said.

Many of those who support the abandonment have lambasted Bender’s efforts to stop the project, which supporters say will be a boon for the Uptown area and the entire city.

“We can’t let other people come into our town and tell us what to do with our town,” said Reverend Donald Mapes, referring to Bender’s New York roots.

“This community has worked very well for many years without you and I don’t think we need your input right now,” said James Styles.

“It’s not his town, it’s our town,” said Val Dwyer, a townsman, who called Bender an “outsider” who he said bought properties that “sit vacant with paper taped to windows and no employees to speak of.”

Bender did not attend the public hearing.

In contrast, project supporters have praised Brad Jordan, who is one of the project’s developers, as a civic-minded businessman who they say has made important contributions. to the community over the years.

Bender’s consultants said the city has not done enough research into the traffic and fire safety impacts the Fair Street Extension closure will have on vehicular traffic.

Other opponents said the project would respond to New York City transplants, which would lead to further gentrification of the city and exclude longtime residents from the rental market and the city.

The Kingstonian is proposed to straddle the Fair Street extension between North Front Street and Schwenk Drive, using the existing municipal parking lot at 21 North Front St. and existing Herzog-owned property on the other side of the Fair Street extension. Fair Street.

The project will include 143 residential units, 14 of which will be deemed “affordable”; 8,900 square feet of commercial space; a boutique hotel with 32 rooms; and a 420-space car park, with at least 200 spaces available to the public, although developers have said that number will be at least 277.

Alana Roth said claims that The Kingstonian would create jobs are “a mirage” and said promises of public space and more parking for Uptown Kingston “are a pipe dream”.

“Privatization is bad for economic development,” Roth said, adding that “so-called benefits are clouds in your coffee.”

“We are now in the middle of Kingston’s second relocation,” said Cheryl Schneider. “This time the settlers are very wealthy developers protected by LLCs.”

City Council will accept written comments until 4 p.m. Friday on the plan to hand over the causeway to developers at The Kingstonian.

Dozens of residents can be seen during a town hall hearing in the auditorium of Geroge Washington Elementary School in Kingston on Wednesday evening Jan. 12, 2021. The hearing drew dozens of speakers on the abandonment of Fair Street Extension to make way for The Kingstonian project. (Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)

Michael A. May