Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Aug. 25, 2011 edition of the Kingston Times.
Since being appointed to the Common Council’s Second Ward seat to fill an unexpired term in 2008, Democrat Tom Hoffay has been one of the council’s most active members. He’s pushed for citywide initiatives like the Green Jobs Pledge and ward projects including the restoration of the Pike Plan canopy and a proposed redesign of a troublesome intersection.
But Republican challenger Seth Allen, a 27-year-old newcomer, hopes to turn some of those accomplishments into vulnerabilities by capitalizing on voter discontent over some of the changes impacting Uptown Kingston.
The Second Ward encompasses the heart of Uptown Kingston. It holds the Stockade District, home of the county office building and courthouse, dozens of small professional services offices, Kingston Plaza and some of the city’s most popular restaurants and taverns. The diversity extends to the residential sector in a ward which takes in stately restored Victorian houses along Albany Avenue, modest working-class homes on the avenues east of Broadway, apartments in mixed use buildings in the business district and the Governor Clinton senior citizens’ apartments.
Politically, Ward 2 is considerably less diverse. Democrats make up 42 percent of the ward’s 1,179 registered voters and outnumber non-affiliated voters who make up 31 percent. Registered Republicans are just 17 percent of voters in the ward.
Hoffay, 63, became Alderman in May 2008 after he was appointed by Mayor Jim Sottile to fill an unexpired term left by the resignation of Jennifer Ringwood. But his relative newness to elected office belies far deeper political experience. He was chairman of Kingston’s Democratic Party in the late 1980s and headed the Ulster County Democratic Committee for the whole of the 1990s. His political pedigree extends to Albany, where he worked as a regional representative for then-attorney general Eliot Spitzer from 1999 to 2006. Currently, he works part-time as a grant writer for State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.
Since taking office, Hoffay has embraced a series of progressive urban planning initiatives including the Complete Streets program to make Kingston more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, an initiative to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and efforts by the Kingston Land Trust to create community gardens and preserve open space.
“You have new people coming in to the city and they have some great ideas, and they’re finding the money to do these things on their own,” said Hoffay of the new generation of quality-of-life programs. “The city needs to encourage and nurture that kind of stuff.”