Kingston Mayor Steve Noble lays out ambitious 2018 agenda
KINGSTON, N.Y. >> Mayor Steve Noble has set an ambitious agenda for the coming year that includes such initiatives as changing the city’s public transportation system, continuing economic development and focusing on equitable development and fair housing.
“According to the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, ‘this is Kingston’s moment,’” Noble said during his 2018 State of the City address Tuesday evening. “What we do with this moment determines who we are as a community and where we go from here. We are entering into the new year, ready to face the challenges that come our way and hopeful for the opportunities still ahead.”
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in the Common Council chamber at City Hall, Noble also highlighted several accomplishments he claimed over the past year, including securing a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant from the state for Uptown Kingston improvements after an earlier application for the funding was rejected.
With Kingston winning the funding, Noble said, “the next 12 months will quite possibly be the busiest in our city’s history of economic development.” He said the city will focus on the Strategic Investment Plan for the funding that must be submitted to the state by March. As soon as that is approved, the city will start to implement priority projects, Noble said.
Noble also said he will focus this year on the responsible development of the Broadway Commons property at 615 Broadway in Midtown, formerly the site of the Kings Inn motel. He said the city will build a collective vision for the site and attract a developer.
Noble said he will issue a “request for proposals” for the property later this month.
Noble also said he expects a dialogue about what affordable housing means to the community. He said that, regardless of a person’s income, everyone needs access to quality housing they can afford.
“So we’re going to look at housing through a wider scope,” the mayor said. “We’re not going to just measure our progress in housing by how many units for a certain income level are being created. Housing isn’t really about four walls and a roof. It’s about people.”
Over the next seven months, the city’s Office of Economic and Community Development will work with the community to create Kingston’s Fair Housing Plan, Noble said. He said once that is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the plan will provide the city with a series of measurable outcomes and goals that will be the basis of its community development efforts for the next five years.
The plan, Noble said, is to cover all barriers to housing, including transportation, walkability and employment.
Noble also said his administration will work to create and implement neighborhood revitalization projects over the coming year, using a holistic approach that brings together multiple departments and community agencies. He said the pilot area will be Franklin Street in Midtown.
The Franklin Street Revitalization Project is to include the rehabilitation of at least three city-owned properties, with the subsequent sale of the houses to first-time home buyers, Noble said. He said it also will include the replacement of a mile of sidewalk, the expansion and improvement of the Everette Hodge Midtown Community Center, exterior upgrades at the Kingston Library and the availability of housing rehabilitation funds for homeowners. The mayor said the city also will expand its efforts to address “zombie properties,” which are unoccupied structures held by lenders.
Of other initiatives, Noble said he would work to enhance the diversity of the city’s workforce and volunteers who serve on boards and commissions. He said he also will work with the police chief and others to develop policies for the city’s Board of Police Commissioners.
“This will include the establishment of bylaws and a clear and consistent process for review of any complaints,” Noble said.
Following Noble’s speech, council Majority Leader Reynolds Scott-Childress said he was impressed with the number of items the mayor mentioned that deal with building a sense of community. He said that value is of major importance to the city and its people.
“There’s only plus sides,” said Scott-Childress, D-Ward 3.
He said if the economy takes a downturn for some reason, and the city is working on building a stronger community, that gives it a greater resiliency. And if the economic situation improves, the city will be able to bring even more people up from where they are now, Scott-Childress said.