One of Finkle’s first tasks was to secure a grant (the first of an estimated $25 million in state and federal funds brought in by the office during his tenure) to carry out and economic diversification study to “find out what was left after IBM.” With the study as a guideline, Finkle worked to market the city’s empty industrial space by touting its plentiful supply and low prices. In 1996, he spearheaded the development of the Kingston Business Park to provide new space for large manufacturing operations. The park succeeded in its initial goal, to keep Huck Fastening Systems (now Alcoa Fastening Systems) from leaving the city.
But 15 years later, the larger vision of the business park as a manufacturing hub remains unfulfilled. Finkle also administered the statewide Empire Zone program, which used targeted tax breaks to help upstate communities lure and retain employers helped fill in some of the empty space before state lawmakers pulled the plug, amid allegations that too many corporations were getting benefits while failing to follow through on promises. Finkle concedes that while employment has returned to pre-IBM pullout levels, the wages never have. That’s a point critics of the Economic Development Office have seized upon.
“People see he’s getting this hundred thousand and whatever salary and they don’t see enough jobs being brought in for it,” said veteran Alderman Bob Senor (D-Ward 8), one of Finkle’s staunchest defenders. “But to me that’s narrow-minded. Look at what’s going on in the economy. There are no jobs to bring in.”
Impact on waterfront
If Senor is one of Finkle’s biggest boosters, perhaps it is because his ward, which encompasses the city’s waterfront, is Finkle’s most palpable legacy in Kingston. Early on in his tenure, Finkle helped develop the Local Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, a comprehensive plan to guide the area’s transition from a formerly working waterfront to regional tourist attraction. With the plan in place, Finkle was able to secure millions of dollars in state and federal grants to fund the removal of old industrial infrastructure, the creation of a paving stone walkway along the Rondout Creek and the blossoming of the creekside New York State Trolley and Hudson River Maritime museums. Supporters of the waterfront renaissance say that by laying out a vision and developing infrastructure, Finkle helped lay the groundwork for future development, including the sprawling Hudson River Landing project which is expected to bring in thousands of new residents and essentially create a new neighborhood in Kingston.