Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston

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1 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston Community Pages Capital One: Kingston by Peter Aaron and photographs by Natalie Keyssar, September 28, 2010 Its a safe guess thereve been more than a few bar-side conversations in downtown Manhattan nightclubs that went something like this: Youre from Kingston? Thats weird, you dont sound Memorials to Korean and Vietnam war veterans in front of City Hall on Broadway in Jamaican. Kingston. Uh Its a frustrating reoccurrence for Kingston, New York, natives, to say the least. But likely nonetheless. For despite its being one of Americas oldest and, at one time, largest and most important cities, the 359-year-old municipality remains far less known than its similarly named Caribbean cousin. In point of fact, many who live just beyond Kingstons surrounding 100-mile radius seem to have never even heard of the town. Which is certainly perplexing, given that the city is home to 25,000 inhabitants, is the seat of 1,160-square-mile Ulster County, and was for generations a center of industry and shipping in the Northeast. It seems the decline of Kingstons once prominent profile began in the 1980s, when, as in innumerable other US cities, the majority of its manufacturers headed elsewhere; doomsayers assumed the coffin lid was closed when the nearby IBM plant moved its 5,000 workers south in 1995. But, as savvier individuals will tell you, in crisis lies opportunity. And, thanks to its affordable housing and the vast crop of raw space available within its former factories, over the last decade Kingston has become a magnet for families and artists fleeing downstate congestion, gentrification, and soaring rents and real estate prices. 1 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

2 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston When your economy takes a downturn, you dont just throw up your hands, you figure out what you have to promote and you focus on that, says City of Kingston Mayor James Sottile. So [city leaders] are working to promote tourism, and so much of that has been helped by the great arts community we have here, which Im personally very proud of. And also by the fact that Kingston is so rich in history. A Tale of Three Cities Yes, history. Much of it. Kingston was the first capital of New York State, having been founded by the Dutch in 1651, who called the outpost Esopus, after one of the local Indian tribes. In 1777 the growing village was recast as the site of the new states government when Albany, the intended center of leadership, was under threat of attack by the British. In a cruel twist of irony, the Redcoats invaded Kingston that same year and burned many of its buildings, although today dozens of the towns early stone housesincluding the 1676 Senate House, which was the original functioning capitol building and now has a nearby museumcontinue to serve as businesses and homes. (The intersection of John and Crown Streets in the citys Uptown district is said to be the only spot in the entire US on which all four original stone buildings still stand.) Besides being an active participant in the American Revolution and a major river port during the 19th-century canal and steamboat era, the burg supplied most of the bluestone and cement that built New York City. Kingston has three diverse business districtsUptown, Midtown, and the Rondoutmaking it feel like three cities in one, each with its own distinctive vibe. Tying them all together to work as one, in terms of marketing, is Nancy Donskoj, who manages the Business Alliance of Kingstons Main Street Program. Kingston is one of only 26 cities in the US to implement its own Main Street Program, which is a concept that came into being when people realized that their downtowns were struggling economically because businesses had relocated to outlying malls and big-box stores, she explains. The Main Street Programs job is to present Kingston as a whole to tourists and potential residents. Under the alliances banner Donskoj oversees individual business associations for each of the three sections; runs the volunteer-based organizations own website, as well as its culturally themed Kingston Happenings site; and arranges citywide events like the recent Kingston Clean Sweep beautification program. 2 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

3 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston Diners at the recently opened Boitsons restaurant on North Front Street in Kingstons Uptown district. Safe in the Stockade With the eight-block area known as the Stockade at its heart, Uptown is the oldest of Kingstons three districts. It has the citys highest concentration of historic stone buildings and a skyline dominated by the steeple of the Old Dutch Church (built in 1852 and, legend has it, home to a hobgoblin), whose surrounding cemetery contains the grave of the states first governor, George Clinton. The neighborhood is defined by the quaint covered sidewalks that line its streets, which are dotted with art galleries, coffeehouses, music and book vendors, and unique shops like quirky gift emporium Bop to Tottom and haberdashery and blues CD outlet Blue-Byrds. Foodies get their fill at the seasonal farmers market (Saturdays from May through November), as well as at the quarters many restaurants and Fleishers Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, which opened in 2004. We chose Uptown as our location because we loved the look of the area and the fact that its within 20 minutes of our customers in Rhinebeck, Stone Ridge, New Paltz, and Woodstock, says Fleishers Jessica Applestone, who co-owns the business with her husband Joshua Applestone. Its right off the Thruway and close to routes 28 and 209. Such has been Fleishers success that the Applestones have acquired space in the building next door, where they plan to expand their thriving eight-week butchery training program and open a luncheonette serving dishes made with their locally sourced meats. Uptown is also the site of yearly Wall Street Jazz Festival and the Hudson Valley Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Community Center, and is a prime barhopping destination thanks to happening hostelries like tapas and wine bar Elephant, the newly opened Stockade Tavern, and performance space 323 Wall Street (formerly Backstage Studio Productions). 3 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

4 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston [323 Wall Street] is working with several programmers to host live music, theatrical productions, a dance school for children and adults, even yoga classes, says Sevan Melikyan, who assumed control of the venue in August. We have an upstairs dance studio, the smaller Wall Space room and bar up front, and a huge 1872 vaudeville theater in the back, which always blows people away when they first see it. Melikyan is excited about the clubs upcoming events, which include the Halloween Zombie Bash on October 30. (One cant help but wonder what ghosts may be lurking in the tunnels beneath the building, supposedly a stop on the Underground Railroad, that night.) On nearby Front Street is Snapper Magees, an alternative music haunt and favorite hub of punk bicycle club the Dusty Spokes. Midtown Makeover On warmer nights the Dusty Spokes pedal over to Midtown to hit the citys other main punk rock club, the Basement, and, just around the corner on St. James Street, microbrewery Keegan Ales, which books a broader range of live music (jazz, blues, Americana, and classic rock) and dispenses and exports three award-winning beers from within its 1830s brick walls. The City of Kingston has been very helpful to us, says Tommy Keegan, who co-owns the operation with his father. Mayor Sottile and the other government people really wanted us here, they held the land for us and did a lot to help with tax credits and other economic aid. I love being in Midtown, I actually live right next door [to the brewery]. Its one of the last affordable places in the region. Whats keeping Midtown real estate inexpensive for the present are the aftereffects of its 1970s urban business exodus. While the area has admittedly struggled with crime and vice for decades reportedly, it was a center for brewing of the, shall we say, less legal variety during Prohibition Midtowns streetscape of one-time factory and department store buildings offers the perfect stage for the space-seeking artists and businesses now formulating its renaissance. Examples include tech-media complex the Seven21 Media Center, the tellingly named multi-arts Shirt Factory, which houses composer Pauline Oliveross Deep Listening Space, and several small galleries. But when it comes to (literally) perfect stages, the prize goes to Midtowns anchor of renewal, the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC). Situated at 601 Broadway, the historic movie and vaudeville house opened as the Broadway Theater in 1927. Saved from demolition in 1977, it was taken over by the directors of Poughkeepsies Bardavon Theater in 2006 and presents top acts in the fields of music, dance, comedy, and other entertainment; everything from the Pixies to The Nutcracker to Garrison Keillor. The [theaters] acoustics are really good because of the rounded wallstheres not a bad seat in the house, says UPAC/Bardavons director, Chris Silva. Weve done $2 million worth of renovation and were working to raise the $3 million needed for completion. The theaters definitely had a great impact here, and our membership is soaring. It really feels like Midtown is coming back, especially when we have shows and you see all of the restaurants packed. The projected redevelopment of the neighboring Kings Inn property into a multiple-use community space promises further rebirth for Midtown. 4 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

5 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston A boat on the rondout creek at sunset along Kingstons waterfront. Down in the Rondout We now follow Broadway south to Kingstons remaining district, the Rondout, another neighborhood with a historicand saltypast. Lying along the shore of the Rondout Creek, a Hudson River estuary, the settlement began as a village named for its nearby Dutch fort, or redoubt, and is rich with striking brick buildings constructed during its 19th-century heyday as a key shipping center. Once the tough realm of canal diggers, ice cutters, dockworkers, brick makers, and brewers, the area was a city unto itself before being incorporated with Kingston proper in 1872. By the 1960s and 70s blight had set in, but in the 90s urban pioneers and restaurateurs began arriving to revitalize the neighborhoods West Strand block, making the Rondout into the buzzing nightlife zone it is today. In addition to many fine eateries, the Trolley Museum of New York, and the Hudson River Maritime Museum, the area features an array of inns and antique stores and the nearby Rondout Lighthouse. Being a waterfront, the locality naturally boasts several marinas. [The Rondout] is located halfway between New York and the locks leading into the Erie and Champlain canals, says Kingston City Marina Dock Master and Harbor Master Scott Herrington. Kingston City Marina alone has 70 slips, and a lot of our patrons are boat owners who summer in the Great Lakes region and winter in the Caribbean. Besides being the perfect place for seasonal outdoor events like the Irish heritage celebration Hooley on the Hudson, the bemusing Kingston Artists Soapbox Derby, and frequent music festivals, the Rondout is also the headquarters of the 600-member Arts Society of Kingston (ASK), which coordinates the citys monthly First Saturday gallery walk, a periodic open studio tour, and the Kingston Sculpture Biennial public art exhibition. Reflective of Kingstons recently being named one of Americas Best Places for Artists by BusinessWeek, ASK sponsors art and creative writing 5 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

6 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston classes, poetry readings, and musical and theatrical performances. The Kingston area has the highest concentration of artists outside of New York, says ASKs executive director, Vindora Wixom, a painter herself. Its proximity to Manhattan and the scenic beauty all around it make it a great place for artists. Living and working here feels like following in the footsteps of the Hudson River School artists. Diners arrive at Savonas Trattoria in the Rondout area of Kingston. A Tradition of Transition Clearly Kingston has recognized the value of its arts and architecture as an avenue toward economic rejuvenation and a better quality of life, and has seized the moment to successfully draw new residents who are eager to contribute to it. And, thankfully, the trend looks to continue, as artists and those who appreciate artand airare steadily priced out and swept aside by Disney-fying developers to the south. This is a city in transition, says Mayor Sottile. And while [Kingstons government is] actively working to draw tourists and new residents to the area, [its] also working on stabilizing our infrastructure and planning for the future. So, yes, Albany may once again be the capital of New Yorks government. But when it comes to moving toward becoming the states new capital of creative culture, one with a welcoming and 6 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

7 Chronogram Magazine - October 01, 2010 - Capital One: Kingston affordable environment for its citizens, Kingston is king. RESOURCES 323 Wall Street Arts Society of Kingston The Basement Blue-Byrds Haberdashery and Music Bop to Tottom Business Alliance of Kingston City of Kingston Deep Listening Space Dusty Spokes Elephant Fleishers Grass-Fed and Organic Meats Friends of Historic Kingston Hooley on the Hudson Hudson River Maritime Museum Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center Keegan Ales Kingston Artists Soapbox Derby Kingston City Marina Kingston Historical Society www.kingstonhistoricalsociety Kingston Land Trust Seven21 Media Center Shirt Factory Snapper Magees Stockade Tavern Trolley Museum of New York Ulster County Chamber of Commerce Ulster County Tourism Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) Wall Street Jazz Festival 1 Have something to say? Login or register to leave a comment. 7 of 7 10/1/12 2:26 PM

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