On May 15, the Kingston Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee unanimously passed a resolution to file a $2.5 million Consolidated Funding Application with the state for a mile-long walkway along the Hudson River on the proposed Hudson Landing housing development. Developer AVR Acquisition of Yonkers, which plans to match the grant money for a total possible pot of $5.7 million, has formed a partnership with Town of Ulster and the City of Kingston to make the application.
But there are concerns. Some are worried the emphasis on the riverside path will distract from other efforts, like the Midtown rail trail, and others wonder if the promenade will be a waste of money if the AVR project never comes to fruition.
The river walkway project would include an access road from Route 32 running parallel to the walkway toNorth Street. It would also include parking as well as various amenities, including benches and signs about the site’s industrial history. Soft costs related to a site-plan design would also be covered by the funding.
The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, initiated by Gov. Cuomo last year, is intended to streamline the various sources of economic development money, making it easier for municipalities to apply. According to Mayor Shayne Gallo, $60 million is currently available from the fund, with most of the money coming from the Department of State and Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. After the application is voted on by aldermen at the Common Council’s June meeting, the city will submit the application by the deadline of mid-July, with awards expected to be announced in September.
AVR had originally planned to build the promenade in stages, but laying down the entire walkway at once before a single housing unit is put up would, one could assume, help jump-start sales of the planned units. Starting with a first phase of a few hundred units, ultimately, Hudson Landing is envisioned to hold 1,658 housing units if fully built out, a third of which would be located in the Town of Ulster. If the city gets the grant, construction on the promenade could begin next spring, Gallo said.
Gallo: Public benefit
Gallo said the use of taxpayer dollars was justified, as the walkway would clearly be a public benefit. It would grant access to a long-neglected stretch of riverfront for Kingston and Town of Ulster residents and attract stroll-seeking visitors, which fits in with the state’s making tourism an economic development priority. “It’s an economic benefit in terms of jobs and as a sales-tax multiplier,” he said.
Contrary to the impression of some members of the public who attended Tuesday’s meeting, the grant application does not include sewer and water infrastructure for the development, according to Gallo, Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley III and Steve Finkle, the city’s former economic development director who is now working as a consultant to AVR. “This has nothing to do with sewer and water lines,” said Gallo. AVR is still waiting for approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to install the sewer lines, he said. The AVR money to match to the grant would be solely for the promenade, he said.
Furthermore, the impression among audience members that the only access to the walkway would be from Route 32 is also false, he said. In fact, Gallo said the connection fromNorth Street on the southern end of the AVR land was a key part of his plan to link the various fragments of developed Kingston waterfront into a seamless, two-mile-long path for walkers and bicyclists, which would stretch all the way to Block Park.
Love forAbeel Street, trolleys
A related project is the new curbs, bluestone sidewalks and lighting planned for Abeel Street. The improvements will be implemented in two stages, starting with the eastern portion of the street this year and following up with the western portion to Block Park in 2013.
Another link is the trolley line out to Kingston Point Park, which will be refurbished in November, Gallo said. Yet another link is the mile-and-a-half abandoned rail line, which travels through Midtown from Kingston Hospital down to the Trolley Museum on the Strand. The Kingston Land Trust Rail Trail Committee plans to turn the line into a rail trail; Gallo said an agreement between the Trolley Museum, which leases the rail line from the city, and the city had been reached in which the museum will relinquish its right to use the line for 40 years, freeing it up for restoration as a walkway. The next step is community outreach to build public support among the adjoining neighborhoods, said Gallo, who during his campaign last year touted the trail as vital to Midtown’s growth. The land trust earlier this spring got a grant to help pay for an engineering study.
Land trust Executive Director Rebecca Martin was at the May 15 meeting and said she hoped the funding for the promenade would not come at the expense of funding for the rail trail and other projects that would improve city quality of life. “There are other projects in the city that also need to be funded,” she said. “The CFA grant is an important opportunity for the community. We just want to make sure it’s not exclusively the only project going to the CFA,” she said.
Martin added that she and the land trust supports the city in making decisions that help Kingston succeed. “We’ll always be here to help … we’re supportive of all the things that ultimately benefit the community.”
No conflict, says mayor
Gallo, who attended the Rail Trail Committee’s recent meeting, said the CFA for the promenade “doesn’t compete with funding for the rail trail.” The rail trail has ample funding sources of its own, including private foundations, he said. He said the city also planned to pursue federal funding opportunities for the public-benefit projects at AVR — in essence, to leave no stone unturned in exploring all the possible grant sources that would aid the city.