Neigh­bors urge de­tailed re­view of Ir­ish cen­ter

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­line.com arielat­free­man on Twit­ter

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.

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