Demo­cratic hope­fuls lay out vi­sions

Af­ford­able hous­ing, as­sis­tance for small busi­nesses among is­sues raised at fo­rum

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble [email protected]­manon­line.com

Democrats on Sun­day heard from three of the four can­di­dates seek­ing the party nom­i­na­tion for Ul­ster County ex­ec­u­tive on a bal­lot that is ex­pected to go in front of vot­ers within the next 90 days.

The 90-minute fo­rum at Kingston City Hall in­cluded Pa­trice Court­ney Strong, 63, of Kingston; Pat Ryan, 36, of Gar­diner; and Marc Rider, 40, of Rifton. Party rep­re­sen­ta­tives said Jeff Mo­ran, 66, of Wood­stock, was un­able to at­tend the fo­rum due to a fam­ily obli­ga­tion.

The can­di­dates re­sponded to ques­tions sub­mit­ted by au­di­ence mem­bers.

Among is­sues that elicited vary­ing ideas was ad­dress­ing the ab­sence of af­ford­able hous­ing. Rider, a deputy county ex­ec­u­tive, was the first to sug­gest us­ing prop­erty that has been un­used since the county Law En­force­ment Cen­ter opened.

“We have an old jail that is sit­ting va­cant right now,” he said. “Once de­mol­ished, which would cost the county about a mil­lion dol­lars and I will look for pri­vate fund­ing to do so, it will have all of the in­fra­struc­ture in place ... to get some­body to de­velop hous­ing there.”

Lo­cated on Golden Hill Drive, the old Ul­ster County Jail was aban­doned in 2007 when the Ul­ster County Law En­force­ment Cen­ter opened.

Strong, who worked as an ad­vo­cate for mu­nic­i­pal use of state en­ergy ef­fi­ciency pro­grams, said the county should model a pro­gram af­ter the Kingston city land bank. She added that the county would be able to work with each mu­nic­i­pal­ity to de­ter­mine how com­mu­nity needs should be ad­dressed.

“We can do two things at once in Ul­ster County,” she said. “We need to ex­plore de­vel­op­ing ... the Kingston land bank into a county land bank . ... It can clear ti­tle on di­lap­i­dated and aban­doned prop­er­ties and get them out for sale and then on the tax roll. They can be pre­ferred hous­ing for se­niors, for lowand mod­er­ate-in­come people, what­ever the en­tity is look­ing for.”

Both Strong and Rider sug­gested the Hud­son Val­ley Mall in the town of Ul­ster could be used for af­ford­able hous­ing.

“It does look like a place for se­nior hous­ing un­der some cir­cum­stances when you look at the beau­ti­ful views there, and you think about the walk­ing clubs that have been there for years,” Strong said.

Rider said the mall “has be­come more of an art gallery than a shop­ping cen­ter these days.”

Ryan, a busi­ness owner, said the county needs to im­prove its sta­tus on af­ford­able hous­ing through projects such a the pro­posed Kingsto­nian de­vel­op­ment in up­town Kingston.

“We have to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the per­cent­age of af­ford­able hous­ing that’s re­quired in ev­ery sin­gle new project, new de­vel­op­ment, as well as up­grades of ex­ist­ing de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

“The sec­ond thing is ten­ants’ rights,” Ryan said. “They don’t have a voice to raise their con­cerns of the prob­lems to get ac­tion taken, so we need to em­power them and then we need to cre­ate a place in the county where those com­plaints and is­sues could be ad­ju­di­cated and re­solved and people don’t need to hire lawyers or travel out­side the county.”

Each of the can­di­dates said the ex­pe­ri­ence of county co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties should

dis­con­tinue af­ter New Paltz busi­ness owner Luis Mar­tinez was de­tained. Rider said county of­fi­cials were ap­par­ently un­aware that county ac­tiv­ity was be­ing tracked by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties and knew when Mar­tinez was sched­uled to meet for a pro­ba­tion ap­point­ment.

“We were us­ing a fed­eral sys­tem to find out a pro­ba­tioner’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” he said.

Rider added that use of that sys­tem has ended and promised that the county would fol­low the lead of New York City.

“Back in 1993, Mayor (Rudy) Gi­u­liani signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that the NYPD (New York City Po­lice Depart­ment) does not co­op­er­ate with ICE,” he said. “How far Mayor Gi­u­liani has come. If it’s good enough for him back in ‘93, it’s good enough for Ul­ster County to­day.”

On a question over en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns and the econ­omy, Strong said there could be op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with col­leges to strengthen the job base.

“We’re not all go­ing to get up on the roof and start nail­ing down so­lar pan­els,” she said. “What SUNY Ul­ster has done with that is show­ing the broad uni­verse of green jobs. Some­body has to be in the back­room work­ing with the cus­tomer, the home­owner. Some­body has to pull the per­mit from the lo­cal govern­ment. Some­one has to work out the in­sur­ance.”

Strong added that em­ploy­ment train­ing could be in­creased through ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams for high school and col­lege stu­dents.

“We need to cre­ate con­nec­tions at an ear­lier stage be­tween the high schools and the em­ploy­ers,” she said.

In re­sponse to ques­tions about tax breaks through the county In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Agency, Ryan said there needs to be an em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance for small busi­nesses that ri­vals re­duc­tions pro­vided to large com­pa­nies.

“The only area that I would re­ally be ex­cited to look at (in­volv­ing pay­mentlin-lieu-of-taxes) is for our small busi­nesses, be­cause, the way it hap­pens right now, the people who tend to get the at­ten­tion when they’re com­ing for­ward to ask for PI­LOT’s are big­ger com­pa­nies,” he said.

“What we’ve been do­ing (is) not work­ing,” Ryan added. “We need to fun­da­men­tally re­think how we do it.”

Ryan also said the county needs to in­crease hir­ing of people from var­i­ous groups.

“When I come in as county ex­ec­u­tive, I will ab­so­lutely pri­or­i­tize in­creas­ing the di­ver­sity of our county work­force and to the de­gree that we can make sure we’re leg­is­lat­ing to in­crease di­ver­sity across all of the em­ploy­ers in the county,” he said.

WIL­LIAM J. KEM­BLE PHOTO

From left, Marc Rider, Pat Ryan and Pa­trice Court­ney Strong ap­plaud dur­ing Sun­day’s fo­rum at Kingston City Hall. The fourth can­di­date for the Demo­cratic Party’s nom­i­na­tion, Jeff Mo­ran, was un­able to at­tend the event be­cause of a fam­ily obli­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to party rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

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