Monthly Archives: January 2010

Part One: Q & A with Ward 1’s Andi Turco-Levin

* Dear Readers – This is the first of a three part series written by Arthur Zaczkiewicz. Here, he will spotlight each of the three new Alderman candidates who took a seat on the council in January, 2010. Enjoy his insightful piece on Ward 1’s Alderman Andi Turco-Levin. Ward 9’s Hayes Clement and Ward 5’s Jennifer Fuentes will be posted shortly.

- RM

Ward 1 Alderwoman Andi Turco-Levin

Andi Turco-Levin, freshly in office as alderman for Ward 1, is no stranger to the challenges that face Kingston. As an associate broker at a local real estate office, Turco-Levin has first-hand knowledge of the local market and how macro-economic issues are impacting it.
Turco-Levin, who also serves as 2010 president of Ulster County Board of Realtors and authors a blog on local issues, took some time to share her vision of Kingston with KingstonCitizens.org.
-Arthur Zaczkiewicz

AZ: What do you see as the top, long-term challenges facing the City of Kingston?

AT-L: First of all we need to figure out how to overcome the financial hurdles that we face. It is a complex problem that has more than one answer. Most of all we need to build our tax base by creating a City that offers economic opportunity, a safe and clean environment for its citizens and a quality education for their children. The challenges we face are how to do it. I truly believe that part of the problem is that we have been reactive instead of being proactive in our long range plans for development. From contract bargaining with unions to designing a comprehensive plan to build both neighborhoods and business districts, without looking at the long range outcome we all suffer terribly.  With that said, the City of Kingston needs to overcome its reputation of being dirty, crime ridden and a city that ‘used to be beautiful’.

AZ: Despite the challenges, Kingston is often described as a “vibrant city” that has much potential. Do you agree? What are some of the city’s most promising opportunities?

AT-L: Absolutely! Kingston has so much to offer in many ways. Using Williamsburg, Va. as an example on how history can become an attraction and destination.  Another plus is the architecture here. With so many neighborhoods intact with rows of Victorian homes we can promote ourselves to historic home buffs if we can try to revamp some of these old neighborhoods again. Of course, our waterfront is the crown jewel of it all. The development of that area is also key to us becoming a tourist destination. One other asset we have is a growing group of residents who offer diversity from the arts to small business entrepreneurs who will help rebuild our economic engine. Again, we need to look into a long term plan for our future, without a road map we will be lost.

AZ: Some residents have expressed a need for Kingston to file for bankruptcy as a way to get some fiscal breathing room and allow contracts to be renegotiated. Do you support such a move? Why or why not?

AT-L: Most contracts will be up in 2012 and I have said it before and I will say it again…we need to start from scratch on the next round of contract discussions.  From what I can tell, in the past Common Council members were not able to participate or comment on the negotiation process and the contracts were given to them at the end of the process to approve. I have had discussions with Chairman Landi of the Finance Committee to be sure that some Council members will indeed be included in the process next time around when the contracts are negotiated. Filing for bankruptcy would have to be the last resort for the City as we would give up so much more control in the long run on how we regain our footing…quite frankly the State is not in the best financial shape either so I’m not certain turning things over to them would be the end of our problems!

AZ: Residents have expressed publicly and privately that your election into office reflects a need for new thinking and new perspectives in city government. Do you agree with this? If yes, how do you implement some of that fresh perspective?

AT-L: I do agree that many Kingston residents are unhappy with the direction that we are going. Rising taxes are a burden to many who live here, especially for seniors who are on a fixed income and for our commercial property owners so we need to all work together to find solutions.

There are two things I wish to focus on while serving on the Common Council. The first one is to encourage residents in the community to get involved.  I have already scheduled our first Ward 1 Citizens meeting to take place on February 27th and hope to have them on a regular basis every 2 to 3 months. I also hope that my fellow Aldermen will become more active in keeping their community up to date with information on things including educating their constituents to the changes that are being discussed such as garbage collection, recycling, leaf bagging and other issues.
The other thing I want to be sure to have is open lines of communication, be it between other Council Members, the Mayor’s office, and the supporting offices that make up our government. I want to be sure that our City residents know we are there working hard and watching out for them.

AZ:  Could you list three of the best reasons to live and work in Kingston?

AT-L:
1.  The natural beauty of our environment along with the proximity to New York City
2.  The charm and convenience of living in a small city
3.  The interesting people who choose to call this City home.

Healthy Kingston for Kids Garden Committee Seeks Volunteers

A Healthy Kingston for Kids Garden Committee is forming for 2010 and seeks volunteers to help build community and school gardens, among other tasks. To get the project rolling, committee co-chairs Julie Noble, environmental educator of the City of Kingston Parks and Recreation department, and Arthur Zaczkiewicz, co-founder of the Kingston Land Trust, are holding an informational session on Feb. 2 at the Kingston Land Trust office, which is located at 280 Wall Street, 2nd Floor, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“This project offers community members a chance to help make Kingston a healthy place for our children,” Zaczkiewicz said. “The work builds upon prior efforts in creating community and school gardens in Kingston.”

This committee’s primary objective aims to expand community and school gardens throughout the city. Members will work with other community members, parents, teachers, and youth to obtain access to resources for the construction and practical use of gardens. The committee’s work also includes developing ways to expand the distribution of fresh and local produce to neighborhoods that need it the most.

A Healthy Kingston for Kids is a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that is being led by Cornell Cooperative Extension Ulster County (CCEUC) along with several partners. The project’s goal is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in Kingston through environmental and policy change. Partners include the City of Kingston, the Kingston City School District, the Kingston Land Trust, the Community Heart Health Coalition, Gilmour Planning, the Rose Women’s Care Service, and the Ulster County Health and Planning Departments.

For more information about the garden committee, contact Arthur Zaczkiewicz at: kingstonlandtrust@yahoo.com

For more information about A Healthy Kingston for Kids project, contact Kristen Wilson at: kew67@cornell.edu

Top 10 Things Kingston Can Do to Be a Better Place

As the City of Kingston struggles under the yoke of a fiscal crisis spurred on by The Recession That Wouldn’t Leave, it seems like a good time to suggest some ways to make this a better place to live, work and do business. Some of these suggestions include some hard medicine to swallow, but in my humble opinion it is needed. So, in no particular order:

1.       Greater Unification. From the socio-economic to business to the political, Kingston – to thrive – needs to be unified. City leaders (business, civic, elected and appointed) need to set aside egos, agendas and self interests and place the greater good ahead of all. A recent example would be how Alderman Ron Polacco says people should come before politics. Brilliant. Of course there will be conflicts, but having a facilitator in a consensus-building session would help iron things out. It’s a process.

2.       One City. Kingston also needs to abandon its three sections (uptown, downtown and midtown), which is simply outdated and non-inclusive. What should be embraced is the idea that this city is composed of dozens of unique neighborhoods that as a whole make one great place to live, work and do business.

3.       Avoid Duplication. Along the same lines of unification is the idea that less is more when it comes to the operation of city governmen to initiatives in the private and nonprofit sectors. Simply put, duplication wastes money, time and people power. For example, having a single business association is better than having three – or four, if you count the Kingston Business Alliance. A single business association instead of three or four has greater clout and focus when it comes to protecting the interests of Kingston businesses.

4.       Improved Marketing. Having a Main Street Manager is a great first step in helping to market Kingston, but the effort should be well funded and positioned for the long term with specific marketing campaigns in place to promote Kingston tourism, business and real estate. The marketing also needs to be nimble. Take the recent Today Show spot that named Kingston as one of the country’s top 10 places to buy a home. Placing advertisements in the real estate sections of New York City, New Jersey and Long Island newspapers along with banner ads on websites touting this recognition would turn a spotlight on Kingston and garner greater attention.

5.       Hire a Spokesperson. The City of Kingston needs a human face. Someone to be a level-headed, thoughtful, apolitical spokesperson who can attend trade, real estate and green building shows to promote Kingston. This person would leverage social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia to create and sustain an online buzz about Kingston. This person would direct inbound inquiries to the right office, and facilitate meetings between businesses and officials. Of course, this person would also be well versed in the positive attributes – from a lifestyle angle – of Kingston as a great place to live. After all, no one relocates their business to places they wouldn’t want to live in.

6.       Redefine Economic Development. Instead of reapplying to the same dwindling pool of grants – mostly federal tax dollars, which is our money – the city should partner with existing businesses to “sharp shoot” economic development opportunities with contract-based businesses involving technopreneurs and solopreneurs as well as in the green building and green technology sectors. Last year’s Kingston Digital Corridor effort was an amazing first step in this direction, resulting in media coverage in national magazines that included BusinessWeek Small Business as well as website visits to KingstonDigitalCorridor.org that were global. Other recent initiatives included the opening of a co-working space – The Beahive – on Wall Street. The city needs to support more projects like these, especially since IBM is not coming back anytime soon.

7.       Celebrate History. From gorgeous Victorians to its rare bluestone sidewalks, Kingston has historical assets that touch people daily. Celebrate this. Inventory other historical assets such as the city’s stone houses, its museums, churches and municipal buildings and create promotional material such a photos and YouTube videos that position Kingston as a gem.

8.       Celebrate Cultural Assets. The same can be done with Kingston’s rich inventory of cultural assets such as its theaters, galleries and art studios. Get Kingston High School kids to shoot video profiles of these assets for YouTube. Have the kids create Facebook pages touting Kingston’s cultural assets. All of this can be connected and intermixed with existing work such as KingstonCitizens.org and Kingston Happenings.

9.       Create a Vacancy Tax. Kingston is full of empty storefronts and lots because there is no incentive for landlords and property owners to fill them. For empty storefronts, a vacancy tax forces them to lower their rents. Perhaps SCORE or other business development organizations could work with landlords to fill those storefronts with small business entrepreneurs. Give them six months free rent. Let their dreams become real, and the city can be transformed. With vacant lots, owners can avoid the vacancy tax by installing community gardens or small, “micro parks.”

10.   Innovate City Government. Create a paperless, green City Hall where residents print forms and documents on demand. Offer incentives such as time off to city employees who walk, bike or take public transportation to work. Create an advisory board for the common council and the mayor’s office. This board would be the conduit between those offices as well as with the public. Leverage existing public platforms such as KingstonCitizens.org to generate discussions and build consensus. Update the city’s master plan, and have visioning sessions with stakeholders every two years to make sure we’re on track.

- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Central Hudson To Increase Their Rates. Your Opportunity To Voice Your Opinion

In the legal notices of today’s Daily Freeman, there was a “Notice Of Public Statement Hearing on Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation’s Proposal To Increase Electric And Gas Rates”.

A public hearing is scheduled in Kingston on Tuesday, January 26th 2010. 6:00pm, Kingston City Hall Council Chambers.

To read the notice and for further instructions on how you can comment, CLICK HERE

Bam! Kingston Local Business Hits The Big Time. Again.

Good fortune continues to shine on Kingston local business Fleisher’s Grass Fed and Organic Meats.

Tune in TOMORROW, Tuesday January 12th at 11am to join Joshua Applestone (Fleishers) and Emeril Lagasse talking about meat matters live on “Cooking With Emeril” on Martha Stewart Living Radio.  

Sirius 112, XM 157 and online at sirius.com

Bragging Rights

Did you happen to notice how many of Kingston’s small businesses made the “Best Of The Hudson Valley” list in 2009?

Each year, Hudson Valley Magazine publishes their ‘best of’ picks. Although they were announced in October of last year, we’re taking full advantage to bragging rights all throughout 2010. Congrats to those who were selected. We are glad that you have chosen Kingston to do business.

Here are the highlights:

Best Shrimp-Stuffed Jalapenos
Armadillo Bar and Grill
“This tasty appetizer beautifully fuses the refreshing quality of jumbo shrimp with the spiciness of the jalapeño. To make the treat, Armadillo owner Merle Borenstein dabs on a touch of Monterey Jack cheese, then crisp-fries the concoction in a bread-crumb covering. To cool the zesty appetizer down, dip the jalapeño in some sour cream before digging in. Dios mío — just thinking about that wonderful confluence of flavor has us salivating.”

Best Local Ice Cream
Jane’s Homemade Ice Cream
“I’m a coconut freak,” says co-owner Bob Guidubaldi, so coconut Almond Joy is among his faves. But partner and wife Amy Keller likes all 80 flavors sold to 70 shops, restaurants, and hotels from Manhattan to the Berkshires. The ice cream and sorbet is made in Kingston with lots of local products. Temptation awaits in a dish of cappuccino Kahlúa calypso, lavender, or Triboro — a nod to NYC made with vanilla ice cream, caramel swirl, and chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels.”

Best Restaurant Expansion and Best French Cuisine
La Canard Enchaine
“The “chained-up duck” referred to in the restaurant’s title is shackled to a single location no longer. The upscale French eatery Le Canard Enchainé, long a staple of the uptown Kingston restaurant scene, opened a brasserie in downtown Albany in September 2008. Happily, an ever-larger swath of the Valley can now enjoy chef Jean-Jacques Carquillat’s authentically French flights of flavor. Entrées run from $24 to $38.”

Best Wine Bar and Best Tapas 2009!
Elephant Wine and Tapas Bar
“It’s called “Elephant’’ for no special reason, but the name fits because this is one cozy spot you won’t forget. “We’re a modern Spanish tapas bar,’’ says co-owner Rich Reeve. He and partner Maya Karrol offer a unique selection of wines and serve up a delicious menu of bite-size appetizers and snacks like fennel and clementine salad and chicken piri piri.”

Readers Pick: Fun In The Hudson Valley
Hudson River Cruise – The Rip Van Winkle

Reader’s Pick: Best Shopping/Butcher
Fleisher’s Grass Fed and Organic Meats

Reader’s Pick: Best Shopping/Outdoor Sports Store
Kenco

Home and Garden: Best Budget Gift Shop
Bop to Tottem
“It’s almost impossible to visit this esoteric emporium and come out empty-handed — there are so many colorful, inexpensive temptations that owner Karen Clark-Adin has gathered from all over the world. You’ll find quirky toys (including charming, hand-knitted finger puppets for a mere two bucks); home accessories like lamps, bowls, throw pillows, scented candles, and soaps — as well as jewelry, bags, hats, mittens, and such. You’ll also find the distinctive, rustic, black clay La Chamba cookware from Colombia that’s rugged enough to use on the stove top and good-looking enough to go straight to the table.”

KingstonCitizens.org Is Now On Facebook

Dear Neighbors,

KingstonCitizens.org is now on Facebook!

Become a friend by clicking on this link.

Thanks,

- Rebecca Martin

Kingston Named One Of The Top 10 Places To Buy A Home In America

According to Barbara Corcoran on the Today show, the City of Kingston rated #9 as one of the 10 top places to buy a home….in America!

Along with Portland, Maine and even Miami, Florida, the beauty and potential of this historic city is no longer a secret.

We look forward to meeting you, future Kingstonians! Stop by Monkey Joe’s, Hudson Valley Traders or Dolce for a cup of coffee and say hello after you close on your new home.

Watch the VIDEO

- Rebecca Martin

Alderman Information Updated at KingstonCitizens.org

As most know, what we thrive on here at KingstonCitizens.org is to encourage and nurture the ongoing communications between our elected Alderman and the constituents, AKA Kingston citizens!

With three new Alderman in place (Wards 1, 5 and 9) and the reorganization of committees by Council President Jim Noble, we have updated our site to make being in contact a cinch.

Visit KINGSTONCITIZENS.ORG and click on any of the Wards of interest.  You can become a member (or just follow along) of any of the Ward Yahoo! discussion groups. Most Alderman are members of theirs –  making it simple to ask a question or express an idea specific to your Ward in the company of other members/neighbors.

You can find all nine Yahoo! Groups at the top of this page, right hand side bar or by visiting KingstonCitizens.org

Take advantage of this tool. KingstonCitizens.org was created to help inspire real change through organization and communication from the ground up.

Please give us a holler if there are any bits of information we might have missed.

Here’s to a new year of better communication and government transparency.

- Rebecca Martin

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