It was very disappointing to see that the Common Council voted against one of their own. Putting in place term limits for office-holders only makes sense. It’s important for the positive direction and growth of our city to have new, fresh ideas that go beyond the “set in stone” mentality of those who have been in a position for too long. Quoting one of the committee members, “I think it was a political stunt.” What in the world does that mean? What are the members so afraid of? I believe that would only take a guess or two to figure out. Everyone has their own opinion and is certainly entitled to it. I, for one, see Andi Turco-Levin as a bright, level-headed person. Her ideas are well-thought-out and they possess a great deal of foresight, which is something the City of Kingston needs plenty of.
Chemistry class in session
In Bob Berman’s informative column, (Almanac, March 24) there was a serious error. When uranium-235 is fissioned, two products result whose sum of mass is slightly less than 235, the difference in mass being converted to energy according to the Einstein equation, E=mc2. The range of atomic mass units of fission products ranges from about 90 up to about 140; examples would be strontium (Sr)-90, and cesium (Cs)-137. Berman cites the cesium as going to bones; this isn’t true. The cesium is an alkali metal, Group 1 of the periodic table and resembles the common biocations sodium and potassium. Sodium is largely extra-cellular in mammals while potassium is mainly intracellular. Strontium, on the other hand, is an analog of calcium and is concentrated in the bone salt (hydroxyapatite) in bones and teeth. Both Sr-90 and Cs-137 are moderately long-lived radioisotopes and present serious health dangers to people who are exposed to significant amounts in food and water; neither are found in the gas phase and so breathing them is a non-problem.
Associate professor emeritus, chemistry
SUNY New Paltz
(Bob Berman replies: Thank you, David. You are absolutely right about cesium. I actually caught this error myself, but too late before it was published. However, I caught it in time so that my public radio version, heard during NPR’s Weekend Edition last Sunday, had it all correct — as you know if you caught that program. Just shows — you can’t get away with anything around here.)
An attractive nuisance
The restoration of the canopy fronts above the sidewalks in front of 43 businesses on Wall Street and North Front Street in Kingston is a terrible idea. Those useless alterations never should have happened (I mean this with no disrespect to John Pike). What I believe should happen is that the canopy should be torn down and the storefronts restored to their original state. This area needs new blood to design what would work for the businesses affected by those distracting fronts. As it stands now, the project to restore the Pike fronts is estimated at $1.7 million of good money to be spent on top of the bad money and the wasted energy used to build the project. One question is, how does this project affect the businesses located under and behind this sidewalk cover and how do the principals in those businesses feel about it? Who exactly will pay for the upkeep of whatever is done and for the damage it will cause to the Uptown business area? For one thing, these covers do not allow for window displays to be visible from cars driving up and down the streets. The canopies hide the sun and daylight from shining on windows and shoppers can not see what is in the shop unless they are standing directly in front of the store.
As I understand the reports to read, it would take $200,000 to tear the canopies down completely and remove the distracting aluminum siding from each building, allowing the pride of the Hudson Brick Companies to become visible again. This would mirror Schermerhorn Row in South Street New York City or Market Street in Corning, N.Y. This, in my estimation, would be a great move towards historic preservation and attract tourists from near and far.
Ripping the canopies off altogether, however, does not answer the much needed question of how to utilize the second floor above each of those 44 first-floor businesses. The people responsible and the businesses already on those streets need to go back to the drawing board. It might take longer but will be well worth the wait to find a way to utilize the second floors to increase the space available for lease, which in turn would invite more businesses and tourists to come into the area.
If the canopies are to be re-built they should be built as a promenade like the train trestle over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. This would allow prospective store, office or other business investors to purchase space above the main street shops utilizing the space above the main street floor as second businesses. The promenade would probably have to be built with steel. The canopy walkway would extend out from the buildings enough to cover the walkway in front of the stores or enough to almost cover a car parked below in front of the store. This would also simplify removal of snow in the winter months. The promenade might have two or three stairways for people to get up to the second level placed accordingly.
There might be handicap enclosed elevators on both ends of the walkway for a total of four elevators two on each side of the street ends, with maybe another in the middle if necessary for emergencies. Or for that matter each business can invest in installing an elevator in their store on the first floor to bring people into the second store upstairs if both upstairs and downstairs parties agree to make that investment. I believe some shops businesses already have elevators which can become part of the storefront promenade project (eminent domain) and separated totally for public use. This would allow people access to the elevators even if the store on the main floor or second floor is closed. It would be interesting to investigate how many buildings have elevators already.
Have the committees responsible for this restoration project considered attempting to attract a hotel like Marriott Corporation to establish a hotel near the area? Their design group would welcome the idea of creating more businesses around them. They would also invest in finding adequate parking for such a large mall-like project. Designs should treat that area as a large size mall while retaining the historic character of the buildings.
Maintaining vacant space will always be a problem when thinking about adapting old buildings wisely. We have the means now with this project about to begin to stop the idea now and call a town meeting and set a time when all the businesses involved on these two streets can attend. Not all the businesses in the surrounding area of Kingston need to be allowed to vote, especially since they are not on the streets that this project encircles. The concerns and suggestions of the few that will really be affected by this project, though, need to be given utmost consideration. The canopy had no useful purpose when it was first built and there is no purpose now for putting such a grand amount of money into restoring what has become an attractive nuisance. I would presume that if it were necessary, every business in that area would gladly fund-raise money over and above what is allocated if the focus was to increase traffic and customers. This area could become a beautiful shopping and touring center with a business focus. I believe that all business owners and property owners in that area are interested in returning the look and feel of the district to its historical roots and making this project a truly worthwhile business and tourist attraction.
John N. Novi
Depuy Canal House Inc.
Unfunded mandates are the reason New York counties have had the highest property taxes in the country. Albany’s proclivity to dictate what its counties must do, without providing the funds to do it, has placed an unjust burden on property owners in particular, and county governments in general.
Governor Cuomo is committed to putting a 2 percent cap on property taxes. Any legislator that lives north of New York City will be committing political suicide to oppose it.
Mandate relief is scheduled to follow somewhat later.
In the interim, the only way a county will be able to deal with budget costs that exceed the 2 percent cap will be to cut non-mandated services. Which in Ulster County’s case would be the Golden Hill nursing center, the sheriff’s criminal division, mental health or coordinated children’s services.
The Golden Hill infirmary can be taken over by the private sector and should be.
The criminal division could be taken over by the state police.
Mental health clients would have to be relegated to charities and non-profits.
Coordinated children’s services saves a lot more money than it cost.
Making things worse is the probability that federal funding will also be cut.
No easy choices. I don’t envy our legislators.
I write to address the development of the state budget as it relates to public libraries. We in Kingston appreciate the continuing personal support for our local libraries by both Senator Larkin and Assemblyman Cahill, especially as it has related to “member items” during the past decade. They were the first offering strong support for emergency roof replacement of the Kingston Library. Assemblyman Cahill has supported our Summer Reading Program.
However, we must attend to the record of our governors and legislature in providing funding for libraries in general. This funding, in addition to small (relative to budgets of full-time libraries funded by local tax monies) per capita contributions to local budgets, largely pays for our “systems.” The Mid-Hudson Library system is headquartered next to the Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie and coordinates the services of libraries in five counties. Systems are totally supported by the state budget. Most often, their annual budgets have been cut, either in the drafting or during years of imminent deficits. Our Mid-Hudson system has recently had to cut staff by one-third, affecting program support personnel.
While the 2012 state budget may be finalized by the time this sees print, we ought to know what is at stake today and next year: What is at stake are the reproductive organs of all of our libraries. Systems do much more than provide the trucks enabling inter-library loans, a free service to all patrons. They formulate library planning, provide technological services, train volunteer trustees, coordinate staff and directors, and develop resources for children, young adults, seniors and the general public. If a library burns down, the first call after an insurance carrier would be to the library system to get re-started and re-supplied. Systems foster proposals for new and rehabilitated libraries. They recommend state funds for new construction. Without library systems, reproduction (ideas, communications, technology, proper governance) is jeopardized. Just like our sexual organs, systems are hidden, unknown and unseen by the general public, who in good times need to know nothing about them.
Current predictions forecast cutting library funds to a level prior to 1994 at $76 million, about 0.0006 percent of the state budget. I understand that the Senate version of the budget would restore $4.2 million to a budget that is already many years behind the inflationary curve. Why is the state cutting library funding about 10 percent while school aid is being cut “only” 7.3 percent or municipal aid by “only” 2 percent. While I recognize the situation is in flux, neither house seeks support to be raised fairly. Are library directors and staff over-paid? Are system leaders corrupt and over-pensioned? Have library unions over-reached? Should some library systems be closed because all they do is provide jobs in low-populated regions? Can we increase tuition for users of our libraries? Shall we sell libraries to support systems? If a citizenry sold a library, would the investment go to systems?
Such questions are leveled at other state services, most of which are not even being cut 10 percent. Why are libraries being cheated? The loins of our libraries are most jeopardized, systems without which all libraries would be orphaned if not starved for services that property-tax districts cannot provide.
In the public arena, those seeking increased funding are often asked, “What should be sacrificed instead?” Our answer to any legislator asking this question is, “It’s not our job to cut services. It’s your job to protect them.”
Albert R. Ahlstrom
Friends of the Kingston Library