Neighbors urge detailed review of Irish center
A second public hearing on the proposed Irish Cultural Center in the Rondout drew several speakers who urged the city Planning Board to require that the developers create a draft environmental impact statement on the project.
Attorney Warren Replansky, who represents neighbors of the proposed center, told Planning Board members during Wednesday’s hearing that it would be up to them to determine whether the developers must prepare the draft environmental impact statement. He said that statement is the only way the environmental impacts of the project, which include the scale of the building, traffic, parking, noise and the character of the
community, can be evaluated by the board. That evaluation would not necessarily result in the project being turned down, but would look at ways to reduce the environmental impacts and create a better proposal that has less of an impact on a historic neighborhood, Replansky said.
“This is an example of good projects being in bad
places,” Replansky said. He said no one is arguing the Irish Cultural Center, with its list of proposed activities, is a bad project. It is just in the wrong place, Replansky said.
The proposal is to build a 16,213-square-foot Irish Cultural Center on property at 32 Abeel St. The three-story building would include a theater on the ground floor that would be accessed from West Strand and the Company Hill Path. The first floor would have performance space and a “tea room,” as
well as a kitchen and some gallery space, while the second floor would include a large classroom area, offices, a recording studio and storage. The roof of the building would feature a garden.
Developers had previously called for the center to measure 16,889 square feet, but the building proposal was later narrowed by 3 feet, 2 inches and reduced in height by 1.5 feet.
Irish Cultural Center Attorney Ronald Pordy said the current proposal eliminated a commercial kitchen
and a banquet facility that had been planned for the top floor of the building.
The city Zoning Board of Appeals is waiting for survey information about property adjacent to the proposed center site before deciding whether a zoning determination supporting the project is correct.
Judith Emilie, who identified herself as a resident of Abeel Street, said that while she appreciates the developers’ willingness to compromise on the size of the building, “I feel that considering
the depth of the issues involved, these alterations don’t actually make enough of a difference in the problems facing those of us who would be living with the project.” Like some other speakers, she noted the lack of parking in the area to support the center, as well as the design of the building being out of sync with the neighborhood.
Tracy Lerman, who lives in the area, also submitted a petition to the Planning Board that she said was signed by more than 100 residents
asking that a positive declaration of environmental significance be declared for the project. A positive declaration would trigger a requirement for a draft environmental impact statement.
Of those speaking in favor of the proposal was Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians President Jim Carey. He said the negative comments he heard during the hearing were “selfish” and that the Irish Cultural Center would be a golden opportunity for Kingston.