By Miranda Reale
KINGSTON – Following letters and lawsuits from project opponents, The City of Kingston planning board discussed the Kingstonian project recently. A group of Uptown property owners have repeatedly filed lawsuits challenging approvals granted to the proposed mixed-use development known as The Kingstonian which amounted to a negative declaration by the planning board. Spurring multiple lawsuits and dividing city residents since its first proposal back in 2017, the project has made some increasingly resistant. As far as the many legal concerns that have arisen, the chance for appeal has ended with city Corporation Counsel Barbara Graves-Poller as she asked the court to dismiss the latest petition.
During the planning board meeting, Ulster County applicant lawyer, Mike Moriello, spoke to the board about the vast majority of the decisions made by the courts. Answering public comments as well as comments from the Ulster County Planning Board, he explained the motion in response to an Article 78 lawsuit that was filed Tuesday, July 5. Hoping to annul a preservation notice of action granted to the developers of The Kingstonian by the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, the action was dismissed. “To the two letters that were sent in by the project opponents, the vast majority of decisions have been made by the courts and these issues have been determined in court. The first question was that the project will negatively impact the Kingston historic district; this has been the contention for the better part of four years. That has been determined by the appellate division and as far as from a legal standpoint, that’s over. The planning board has been upheld in the court below, and in the court at the appellate division found that the litigants did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. So, that’s over,” Moriello said.
New York City-based real estate investor Neil Bender, is named as a petitioner of the lawsuit and his group, William Gottlieb Real Estate Group, has been involved with at least 14 different lawsuits over the project’s development.
Opposition expressed concern that the development is not in line with the initial draft of the city’s revised zoning code. Released on the same day as the hearing was held, the draft code addresses community goals and will impact all future development in the city of Kingston. Moriello explained that the planning board is not charged with looking at laws which are not inactive. Furthermore, allusions to smart growth are laid out in the negative declaration. “To state that we are not employing smart growth is just a flat inaccuracy. These have been a mainstay of the project since the beginning,” he said.
The third issue was that the project impermissibly alienates a public park and replaces it with a privately operated space. “That has been determined by the appellate division again in a unanimous decision in favor of the city. That issue is over, there is no parkland involved in this project. The next issue is that the project submits an inadequate traffic report. That has been determined in the Supreme Court to have been adequate. Those decisions have been ruled in favor of the planning board and in favor of the applicant,” Moriello continued.
As it stands, the project will include 143 residential units, a hotel, commercial space, a parking garage, and a public plaza built over the top half of Fair Street Extension. Still under review by the city planning board, the project awaits approval.