Ulster County Family Court move hasty, illconsidered
Dear Editor, The upcoming November ballot referendum regarding Ulster County’s proposal to relocate the Family Courthouse has been covered by the media and debated by the public.
It is almost unprecedented in New York to locate its family courts outside of county seats: 59 of 63 (94 percent) of family courts are situated within their respective county seats.
As troubling as the referendum language is, the haste and disregard with which the county has addressed and presented this matter to the public is of genuine concern.
Inadequately studied are the following critical points:
• As early as July 2014, Ulster County was alerted by the state that the current facilities at Lucas Avenue were not in compliance with modern facility design nor accessibility standards. Over a year and a half passed before the county took limited action. In February 2016, the county Legislature and county executive were again notified that their mandated action remained incomplete. One might wonder if delay was intended to manufacture a crisis forcing an immediate response, rather than a well-studied and -debated course of action.
• The county’s “Analysis of Moving Family Court to the Business Resource Center” narrowly considers the cost impacts of a change in physical facilities; it specifically disregards highly relevant factors: Where is the traffic study? Where is the environmental impact study? Have the financial impacts on surrounding Kingston businesses been properly considered? Over 35 attorneys offices are only blocks from Family Court: what about transportation costs to legal representatives and their clients who would no longer be able to walk to court? We must consider the financial impacts of local businesses forced to close or let go employees due to the loss of 300-400 daily shoppers and diners and law offices that may have to move out of Kingston. Why haven’t other Kingston locations been studied to accommodate the mandate?
• A June 2016 “cost comparison” by the county significantly skews the costs of renovating the county-owned Business Resource Center. It provides a “project budget summary” illustrating a $305-per-square-foot cost for the proposed location and yet assigns square-foot costs of $626, $894, and even $958 to “comparative sites.” There are several recently completed, similar projects designed to high energy-efficiency standards, constructed at an average of $305 per square foot.
The Family Court represents an important civic function, one that touches most citizens‘ lives. Let’s treat the process of modernizing it with due diligence and true vision. Brad Will Kingston Editor’s note: Brad Will is an architect and a former, Democratic alderman of the Third Ward in the city of Kingston.