February 21, 2020 - In This Issue:
A Message From Mayor Steve Noble:
The City of Kingston recently completed a city-wide Rental Vacancy Rate Study to determine if our community could opt into the Emergency Tenant Protection Act for regulating rent. The results of the study determined that our vacancy rate is 6.7% and therefore does not qualify Kingston to opt into ETPA legislation at this time.
I know this is a frustrating outcome for many.
While the current vacancy rate does not reflect a housing emergency as defined in the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, it is clear that many in our community are in a housing crisis. However, I recognize that rents are skyrocketing and available housing is severely limited and unaffordable for many. Though the ETPA is not an option at this time, there's more we can and are going to help
. I met with the Laws & Rules Committee and urged the Council to consider taking action on the following initiatives, which I feel will make an impact on
our local housing issues
1. Amend the City's Landlord Registration and Inspection law to increase the frequency of the City's Building Safety Department's health and safety inspections from every two years to once a year for buildings with 6 or more units. This would allow the City to better monitor the health and safety of these apartments as well as to annually collect its own occupancy data and monitor vacancy rates.
2. Adopt Short-Term Rental Regulations, which limit and regulate the large number of non-owner occupied short-term rentals that are greatly impacting our current housing market and which are currently exempt from inspections.
3. Adopt Tenant Support legislation, which could provide tenants with financial protections in the event that they are forced to leave their apartment due to a health and safety issue within their building.
4. Amend the Zoning Code to require a 10% affordable housing requirement for all new rental apartment construction in the City. We are currently undertaking a comprehensive review as part of a re-zoning project, this immediate stopgap measure would encourage the construction of new affordable units in the City.
We are far from giving up, and will continue to use all available resources to protect renters in our community.
Public Safety Forum on March 4
The Common Council's Public Safety/General Government Committee will be holding a public forum/speaking on the recent gun violence and community safety in Kingston. Mayor Steve Noble, Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti, and District Attorney Dave Clegg will be in attendance to listen and discuss community safety.
The Public Safety Forum will take place on March 4, 2020 at 6:30pm at City Hall in Council Chambers.
RUPCO Homeownership Center's 15th Anniversary Celebration
This week, RUPCO celebrated the
15th Anniversary Celebration of its Home-ownership Center.
RUPCO and the City have had a longstanding partnership to both create home buyers and help homeowners with housing repairs. Since its inception, the Homeownership Center has assisted 208 first-time home buyers in purchasing within the City of Kingston, and dozens of homeowners have received housing rehabilitation grants to preserve and maintain their housing.
The Mayor congratulates this wonderful program and thanks RUPCO for 15 years of dedicated service to our community!
UPCO's Kevin O'Connell at the anniversary event
Flood Preparedness Guide Released
The City of Kingston has produced a Flood Preparedness Guide that gives residents in flood-prone areas a plan for safety and provides official evacuation routes, along with i
mportant information about preparing for, staying safe during, and recovering from flooding.
Flood Preparedness Guide includes a map of flood prone areas and provides information on emergency shelters for people and pets, and how to prepare a flood emergency kit.
With help from Cornell Cooperative Extension and funding from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the City will begin distributing the Flood Preparedness Guide to downtown residents this month. A printable version of the guide is available on the City's website and can be downloaded
"This guide will be an invaluable resource for our residents in flood-prone areas," said Julie Noble, Environmental Educator and Sustainability Coordinator. "We want those in the downtown community to be fully prepared and educated for a potential disaster. This guide is a helpful resource that we recommend be kept in a water-tight baggie along with important contact numbers, and stored with your emergency supply kit.
The 2020 Distinguished Artist Award Goes To...
Mayor Steve Noble and the Kingston Arts Commission are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2020 City of Kingston Distinguished Artist Award is local musician Lara Hope. An a
ward ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 5:30pm at City Hall.
Lara Hope is a celebrated local musician, known for her work with
Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones,
The Gold Hope Duo
. Hope is the recipient of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Female Rockabilly Artist, and is a worldwide touring musician.
The Distinguished Artist Award was established by the Kingston Arts Commission in 2018 to honor the contributions of local artists. Awardees are selected every two years, and are expected to conduct one community event during their tenure. Artists in any discipline are eligible to be nominated: music, theatre, dance, literary, visual, or media arts. The recipients are chosen based upon the level of their artistry, commitment to the art form, commitment to the community, and recognition in the field locally, nationally or internationally. Nominees must be a resident of the City of Kingston for at least two years.
The panel for the Distinguished Artist Award was comprised of five Kingston residents: Bryant "Drew" Andrews, Executive Director, Center for Creative Education; Brian Mahoney, Editor, Chronogram Magazine; Julio Nazario, professional artist and former Assistant Dean at Rutgers University; Aaron Rezny, food and still-life photographer; and Virginia Walsh, Director and Curator of Exhibitions at Ann Street Gallery.
Update on Mayor Noble's Proposed DPW/Parks & Rec Integration
When I released my plan a few weeks ago to make changes to the Departments of Public Works and Parks and Recreation, I was aware that the proposed creation of a Deputy Superintendent of Environmental Services, in which long-time employee Julie Noble would be considered for provisional appointment, would be a central focus of the Council and public. I believed then, as I do now, that our current structure encourages duplication of services and would benefit from a departmental integration plan.
My job is to ensure the effective and efficient functioning of all City departments. Over the past few years, I have sought to make gradual institutional changes to improve public services. The Council's willingness to consider my previous proposals has resulted in some extraordinary changes. In just four years, we have centralized grants management, improved communications, invested in arts and cultural affairs, and prioritized health and wellness. I have had the opportunity to appoint new leaders to key existing positions, including the heads of DPW, Engineering, Corporation Counsel, Building Safety, and the Clerk's Office. With the Council's support, we carefully negotiated the integration of Citibus with Ulster County Area Transit after years of delay. I have appreciated the Council and public's trust in my leadership as we have navigated these new opportunities.
When the current Parks & Recreation Superintendent informed me of his plans to retire this April, I approached this situation with the same intentions for improved functioning and efficiencies as I have with all major transitions. In the City Code (C14-1), under the Powers and Duties of the Department of Public Works, it states "The Department of Public Works, at the direction of the Mayor, shall have the care and control of the streets, sewers and public parks of said city". Over the years, the Department of Public Works created a Parks Maintenance Division, but it was never funded or staffed. Now, with the retirement of key leadership and several major parks infrastructure projects in the pipeline, I feel it is time to proceed with the integration of these two departments.
Under my proposal, the Superintendent of Public Works would oversee the personnel, finances, and service delivery of both DPW and Parks and Recreation. In the short-term, this would improve interdepartmental communication and allow us to centralize equipment purchases and work order systems. In the long-term, we would decrease redundancies, save taxpayers money, and create a stronger, more unified workforce.
As part of this proposal, I proposed three key changes:
1. Request that the Council consider a change to the City Code, allowing the Superintendent of DPW to also serve as the head of Parks and Recreation
2. Appoint a Recreation Director (instead of a Superintendent of Parks and Recreation) off of an existing civil service list to oversee and expand recreation programming for youth, adults and senior citizens
3. Establish a Deputy Superintendent of Environmental Services position to increase the capacity of the departments
I feel strongly that all three actions are needed to effectively implement the ambitious work plans of Public Works and Parks and Recreation in the coming years. I also understand that institutional change is challenging. It doesn't happen overnight; it requires time, patience and trust.
While I must ensure the proper functioning of our city departments, I am also responsible to uphold the public's trust in its government. I recognize that my proposal to establish a Deputy Superintendent of Environmental Services is inextricably linked to my family because my wife is a candidate for the position. The stability of these essential public services is paramount, and so, I made the decision to request that consideration of the proposal to create a Deputy Superintendent be tabled until a later date.
At Wednesday's Laws & Rules meeting, I urged the Council to continue deliberating the other components of my proposal so that we can maintain, to the best of our ability, continuity of services.
In order to ensure my office is handling this transition with the utmost propriety, the City's Corporation Counsel has contact the NYS Attorney General's office
in a recent letter
, providing the background of the situation, and asking for a guidance in moving forward in the most lawful, proper way.
Parks & Recreation Black History Month Event
Kingston's Parks and Recreation Department hosted a wonderful Black History Month event at the Rondout Neighborhood Center. The theme was "People in Uniform" and included a visit from Deputy Sheriff
Loveless, a former Rondout Center student who is now a Deputy for the Ulster County Sheriff's Office. It was a great opportunity for the youth in attendance to get to know someone in law enforcement, and enjoy some music and soul food as well!
Parks & Recreation has another Black History Month event today: Carnival Night with food, games and prizes, at the Rondout Center starting at 6:00pm.
Marquis Loveless speaking at Rondout Neighborhood Center
Kingston 311 app, website and phone
system allow residents to quickly and easily report issues and submit service requests. The Kingston 311
app, available for
, is a fast and simple way to connect to City officials in non-emergency situations.
This system is a valuable resource to submit service requests for streetlight replacement, roadwork, City signage, traffic calming measures and other concerns. Issues with snow removal and reporting of vehicles and sidewalks not in accordance with the Snow Emergency restrictions can also be submitted via Kingston 311.
Photos can also be attached to illustrate service orders. Dial 311 from any phone within City limits to reach us.
The City of Kingston often receives requests to share upcoming events happening in our community. Our partners at
do an excellent job of centralizing this community information. So while our website is the best resource to gain information about City of Kingston sponsored events and important municipal information, Kingston Happenings can give you a greater preview of community events. Check them out today!