TownOfUlsterCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on increasing citizen engagement and creating a better Town of Ulster NY.
The Town of Ulster is in the heart of the Hudson Valley within easy reach of the Catskill Mountains and is known as the “Business Hub” of Ulster County.
TownOfUlsterCitzens.org was founded in January of 2018 when a group of concerned citizens gathered together out of concern for the threat of a possible gas-fired power plant, with diesel backup, being proposed behind hundreds of homes. That was our first campaign – which we won.
We continue to be engaged in our town and county government, and take on issues we feel are important for our community. All of our work is voluntary.
Town of Ulster Finances
A few times a year, the ToUC.org offers commentary and suggestions on town finances, such as: the town budget (November), the annual independent audit of the town’s finances (summer), and hearing involving town expenditures (e.g., creation of a new administrative position, Comptroller). In brief, the town’s finances are healthy, so robust that taxes should not be raised. We made the public assertions for the past few years, but the Town Board acted otherwise. Budget preparations of the town are so generous in detail that they distract a casual observer from being able “to see the forest for the trees.” We see both the forest and the trees.
Callanan Industries, Mining in Town of Ulster
For many decades East Kingston in the Town of Ulster has openly complained about the effects of blasting for road aggregate on both sides of Route 32. In July 2019, our town declared a state of emergency after a dangerous rockslide from an old mine tumbled rocks into the hamlet of East Kingston. Mining ceased for a few months so that studies could be conducted. A concrete retaining wall was built by Callanan, but they took no responsibility for landslide. Our town hired a national consultant to examine the ten most recent blasts prior to rockslide and concluded that blasting was conducted within normal ranges. The citizens researched this company, conducted two Freedom of Information Law requests on 1) their 5-year permit applications, mined land use plans and reclamation plans for the past 20 years, and DEC responses to the same; and 2) NYS Mapped wetlands, particularly KE-3 and KE-7, on their properties. Boxes of maps and other documents revealed that Callanan can do almost what it wishes in its mining. In the 20-year period, NYS DEC Region 3 did not even issue formal permits. Rather, the regulator said to us that it’s all in the Supreme Court 1995 Consent Order that exempted Callanan from being required to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Because SEQR was implemented in 1976, and Callanan and its partners were already mining in the town before then. Their longevity gave them grandfathering status.
Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (RRA)
The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (RRA) is a private company that serves a public purpose. In 2019, the RRA drafted a 10-year plan that they were about to submit to the NYS DEC for approval. The ToUC.org offered comments on the plan, some of which were included in the RRA final plan submitted to and approved by DEC. We have had at least three letters to the editor published in the Daily Freeman on RRA. Subsequently, the RRA engaged in a spat with the Ulster County Legislature about RRA’s own plan of what a “zero waste” goal means. Instead of pursuing a zero-waste management program, their activities focused on finding a site for a local landfill which was not even on the list of objectives in the final plan. As of mid-March 2021, the RRA’s leadership is in a state of flux.
GlidePath, also known as the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center (LPGSC), was the first major public project in which the ToUC.og had become involved. This is a story of passionate citizen involvement that has a happy ending for citizens, town leadership and GlidePath itself. The original proposal involved the development of a20 megawatt power plant fired by natural gas and diesel fuel in the middle of a 120-acre forest, 680 feet from a housing development, with prominent smokestacks poking 30 feet above 70 foot tree-tops. Thanks to the exhaustive NYS SEQR process that closely examines every aspect of a scope of work and environmental impact statements, highly organized citizens, environmental organization experts, energy analysts, a world-wide energy developer and Town Board willing to listen and also wait for NYS incentives, the original project turned from pollution gray to pollution-free green. The new LPGSC, a battery-storage-only peaker plant, is literally “out of the woods” and situated at a more accommodating site. The plant development was hamstrung by the vagaries of COVID, and it received an extension from NYS and the town that will be reviewed again in November 2021. In addition, GlidePath has promised both the ToUC.org in writing several times that they will turn over approximately 109 acres to a local land trust to become a permanent conservation easement—a win-win-win.
Enterprise West, formerly Tech City
Most people in the Town of Ulster and the County of Ulster are cheering about the prospects of Enterprise West rising from the ashes of Tech City and IBM. Since IBM, who employed 7,000 people, closed its doors in 1995 and sold it to Alan Ginsberg in 1998, the 258 acres mostly languished in batches of grand plans. Worse, Ginsberg did not pay his taxes. Because of these tax defaults, the County now owns most of the campus west of Enterprise Drive, now called Enterprise West. It is expected he will also default on his tax obligations on the east side of Enterprise Drive. To be clear, IBM still has a legal presence on the campus, as evidenced from our study of protective covenants, easements, conditions and restrictions filed with the County Clerk and attached to the deed. These restrictions are directly related to IBM’s pollution of groundwater with solvents for 40 years. Slowly, they are still cleaning up their damage to the groundwater. The ToUC.org has hosted many public meetings, attended by Town and County officials, over the past few years to review opportunities and make recommendations on the future of this property. Most do not want a single owner emerging from a low bidding contest that could lead to more dead ends. The County has recently fielded over 20 solid developers interested in one or another portion of the property.