October 12, 2017




Developers fend off activists over Uptown Kingston IDA tax abatements

KINGSTON – A Kingston activist group targeted the city Industrial Development Agency Wednesday morning, in an effort to slow down the granting of tax abatements to Uptown developers., a grassroots collective, leaned on agency board members to delay approval for an Uptown hotel venture, Hudson Valley Kingston Development, financed through real estate investor Charles Blaichman. Their talking point alert, posted on CHANGE.ORG, drew nearly a dozen opponents to the meeting.

IDA officials ratified a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with 311 Partners LLC and BBG Ventures LLC, for a different project to convert the old Woolworth building into a Kingston Food Market complex. The deal includes sales, property, and mortgage recording tax discounts.

The Blaichman item was delayed until the November meeting. Activists raised various complaint issues including gentrification, crime, and improper notice. IDA officials, however, explained the matter will be tabled pending routine state environmental quality review.

Agency Chairman John Morrow gave assurances that everything goes by the book. “The IDA has very specific rules on dealing with projects, looking at the application, if it qualifies; we don’t look at if there’s a need for hotels, that’s not what we do,” he said.

“This thing here, talking about not sufficient time, that’s nonsense, there’s plenty of time, it’s all announced, in the papers, we follow the state rules for public hearings, our agendas are all online,” Morrow said. “If somebody isn’t aware of it, they’re not looking it up online. I’m available seven days a week, if anybody is concerned, I haven’t heard from any of the people in this room, until today.”

“There is no modeling to say, you don’t really need this money,” added Suzanne Holt, director of the Ulster County Office of Economic Development. “It’s a business decision. Whether you’re going to run a business in a certain way, and how much money you need to make at the end of the day, for it to be successful, that’s up to the developer.”

Ben Giardullo, after receiving the PILOT for his Woolworth’s application, defended the Blaichman proposal, noting that the IDA process is heavily scrutinized. “We can’t conflate an individual’s wealth or net worth with a project,” Giardullo said. “At the end of the day, this is about a business succeeding. It doesn’t matter who is behind the business, so long as the business thrives.”

Other stakeholders supporting the Blaichman project included Nan Potter, property manager for the Blaichman group, who clarified details including valet parking.

Ulster County Legislator Jennifer Schwartz-Berky submitted a petition with 120 signatures to the IDA from the Kingston Citizens group. She took umbrage at the characterization of ignorance, maintaining that participating activists study issues carefully.

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