At a July 13 meeting, the council voted 5-3 to table the measure which was the subject of a debate at the previous night’s meeting of the council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee. Sottile’s proposal called for taking $50,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds which the council had allocated to the library restoration project and using it to build a covered bandstand near T.R. Gallo Park on the city’s waterfront. The bandstand, which would be named for the late city clerk Kathy Janeczeck, who died in September, would be built using city workers, significantly reducing the overall cost of the project compared with competitive bidding. Plans call for a 24-by-32-foot stage, a canopy and a movie screen. Sottile said that he would like to see the project completed in time for Labor Day weekend, when the Hooley on the Hudson draws thousands of visitors to Kingston’s waterfront.
Proponents of the plan who spoke at a July 12 special meeting of the council’s finance committee, including Mariner’s Harbor owner Frank Guido and marina owner Scott Harrington, said that the bandstand would help reinvigorate a tourist economy which has been flagging in recent years.
“These aren’t expenses, they’re investments,” said Guido. “I’m not complaining, we’ve got our lives here, but I’ve been in business since 1968 and I’ve never had three years going backwards and we’re going backwards. Kingston is not what it should be and the waterfront is the jewel.”
Community Development Director Mike Murphy told council members that the money diverted from the restoration project could easily be made up from next year’s Community Development Block Grant funding. But committee members opposed to the proposal worried that cuts to its entitlement award could leave the library restoration project high and dry.
“This is really a great thing, but I don’t think that this is the way to go about it,” said Minority Leader Andi Turco-Levin (R-Ward 1), who voted against the bandstand proposal. “You don’t take grant money which has been allocated for one purpose and move it to something less vital and then hope the money comes back next year.”
Other council members echoed a common complaint that the city’s waterfront already received the lion’s share of various grant programs, while CDBG money is supposed to fund projects which benefit Kingston’s poorest census tracts.
“Let’s improve Broadway,” said Ron Polacco (R-Ward 6). “I would just as soon see that money stay at the Carnegie Library, but if we were going to move it, I think there are better things we could do with it.”
Even Aldermen who supported the plan said that they were unhappy about Sottile’s request for last-minute changes to a CDBG action plan which had been hammered out in public forums this spring.
“This really came out of left field and the timing is disrespectful,” said Jen Fuentes (WFP-Ward 5) who voted for the proposal at the finance committee meeting. “But I think a compelling case has been made.”