Tuesday, May 15, 2018



Panel examines Kingston agency consolidation proposal

Noble: "... struggling to staff
two separate boards"

KINGSTON – A six-member panel discussed a City of Kingston proposed law to merge two internal offices.

At a public forum held Monday night at City Hall, over 100 people attended to hear the speakers, concerning the roles of the Historic Landmark Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission, which the administration wishes to combine. Kingston Citizens – describing itself as a non-partisan organization focused on increasing citizen engagement in local government – organized the event.

Currently the two agencies do not have alternates, and members cannot be replaced. The proposed law fixes those problems, and reduces the overall participants, but also diminishes the Heritage Area component.

Mayor Steven Noble supports a merger.

"Right now, were struggling to staff two separate boards," Noble said. "I don't think we have the capacity to do the real work we need to do, to move historic preservation forward. My goal is to be able to have one board, which will be supported by the planning office."

The matter will appear on the Law and Rules Committee agenda this Wednesday, as old business.            

The idea was raised last month by Assistant Corporation Counsel Dan Gartenstein. If approved, the suggested bill must go through a series of public hearings, and then a vote before the full common council.

In a memo dated March 28 to Alderman-at-Large James Noble, Gartenstein wrote: "Our office has drafted proposed legislation which we believe addresses the issues discussed by the Zoning Revision Commission."

Monday's forum brought together several members of the two affected city commissions, plus Mayor Noble and two statewide experts. All seemed to favor consolidation – or at least did not oppose it.

Linda Mackey, certified local government representative for Ulster County of the New York State Historic Preservation Office, and Erin Tobin, vice president for policy and preservation of the Preservation League of New York, gave overviews of sample legislation.

Kingston differs from other municipalities, by already having strong historic landmark preservation legislation, Mackey explained. Historic Landmark Preservation Commission was born in the wake of disastrous urban renewal projects during the 1960s, and the demolition of the historic Broadway Post Office building in early 1970 – later replaced by a fast-food restaurant franchise.

The Heritage Area Commission, formerly known as the Urban Cultural Park Commission, was originally created to receive and administer state grants, pursuant to a 392-page management plan drafted by the city in 1987. Many local planning issues touched upon by the Heritage Area jurisdiction overlap with Historic Landmark Preservation Commission.

This distinction, overlooked by Monday's panel forum, is very similar to two other offices merged together in 2016 – the local Kingston Office of Economic Development, and the Office of Community Development – which once handled the state Community Development Block Grant.


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