Cold Spring Board Hears Concerns of Residents, Boaters, on Docking at Pier

The visiting tugboat Cornell attracts attention at the Cold Spring dock in summer 2009.

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Revisiting the question of allowing commercial vessels to dock in Cold Spring, the Village Board last Tuesday (Feb. 22) got an earful from residents and boatmen, including two who criticized the village for unfriendliness and drew strong local ripostes in response. In an approximately 90-minute forum that also touched on the dangers — or not — of cadmium pollution under the dock, the mayor and trustees heard of the ins and outs of docking in Cold Spring. With references to “bollards,” “pilings,” “Yokohamas,” “displacement,” and similar terms, captains of tour boats, a tug, and other river craft discussed the methods and equipment suitable for the dock. The Village Board invited the boatmen to attend the meeting to get their input. 

Protecting the dock
Since December, the board has pondered changes to village code to allow g commercial boats to pay a fee and moor at the dock for “a day or days,” with the board considering each application case-by-case, boat-by-boat. The law would replace a current provision that restricts access to unique vessels, such as historic ships and educational boats, mooring for short stays. Advocates of the revision in the law argue that allowing commercial boats to berth on a regulated basis would generate revenue, both for the village and the shops, inns and restaurants that river-going visitors might patronize. Adversaries warn of noise, traffic congestion, and possible undermining of the dock structure— and of the cadmium that lurks beneath it, remnant of the Superfund clean-up conducted more than 15 years ago.
       Much of the back-and-forth among the boat captains and maritime experts involved the best ways to protect the dock. Huntley Gill, captain of the historic fireboat John Harvey, which has visited the dock on special occasions, explained the virtues of “Yokohamas,” portable fenders that resemble “big floating rubber sausages. They would hold a boat off and away and protect the dock.” Matt Perricone, captain of the tugboat Cornell, noted that Yokohamas “are designed to handle tremendous loads,” can be adjusted and removed and stored seasonally, and cost less than permanent buffers. “Tug boats by nature — it’s a contact sport. You run into other boats slowly, gently,” he said. “If you go to docks where there’s already fendering in place, it’s a win-win. And you can bring anything in.” 

Objections from residents
Several audience members took issue with such “technical” talk. “I’m really concerned about the direction this discussion is taking,” John Dunn, who lives on Fish Street, a block from the river, told the board.  “This is not just a technical issue, this is a community issue. Let’s really be careful about what we decide to do.” Dunn said he found as the John Harvey delightful but complained that too often river-area residents “are never consulted and everything is presented as a fait accompli.” He described the proposed new law as “a huge change. You can’t push this through,” he told the board. “I think people in this community are concerned.”
       “I think we’re maybe moving too fast, if there is going to be a change,” his wife, Karen, added. She also wondered, “Does there need to be a change?”
       Seamus Carroll expressed reservations about the impact of commercial boat activity on other pastimes at the dock, including fishing by children and crabbing. “My point is that there are a lot of other people who use the dock,” Carroll said.
       “This is a public decision, whether they want boats to tie up there,” put in Roger Chirico, a Cold Spring Boat Club member and former mayor.
       “I think part of the purpose of today’s meeting is to slow things down a little bit, take a look at some of these issues,” Mayor Seth Gallagher assured the audience.   
       Trustee Charles Hustis, like some residents, suggested using another location, such as Dockside Park, for commercial boating. “I’m for it, but I think we should be considering a long-time plan — at Dockside.” However, the State of New York — not the village — owns Dockside. Also, as Mayor Seth Gallagher observed, Dockside lacks a pier and constructing one involves “a larger project,” whereas the village dock already exists. 

An unfriendly village?
Two of the visiting rivermen criticized the village for intransigence and inhospitable attitudes. John Vargo, publisher of Boating on the Hudson magazine, listed three ways to reach Cold Spring — by car, railroad, or boat – – and objected that the village closes off the latter. “You’ve shut the third door,” he said. “I don’t see many businesses here. I don’t understand why the businesses aren’t demanding that the third door be open. It’s crazy.” In a place that gets no sales tax revenue — Putnam County does not return any to municipalities — “it’s even more important that these businesses generate enough money to keep going,” Vargo said. “There has to be a certain dollar volume in order to support the community.” He cited a reason for the apparent inertia: “There’s no community spirit,” no will “to invite people into the community. That’s where the problem is,” not problems at the dock,” he said. “For whatever reason there’s nobody opening their minds to everything that’s possible.”
       Capt. Don Fleming, a large-yacht captain who runs a boating-training center, seconded Vargo’s opinion. By “what I see here tonight, I’m flabbergasted,” he said. “You have a group of concerned citizens who live right along the river; they don’t want to see anything change.” He said he understood the sentiment. “But I think the overall community of Cold Spring needs to look at this with a little bit more of a wider view,” he said. “It’s very sad to be up here and see the usual petty politics and nit-picking over ridiculous issues.”
       “It’s not petty politics,” the mayor replied. “It’s that we have issues and we’re trying to deal with them.”  Gallagher tried to damp down the passions and stave off disputes between villagers and boaters.  “I didn’t really want to get off on that tangent,” he said. Fleming concluded by suggesting that “there’s a balance that could be achieved by bringing a boating community into a friendly atmosphere. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
       An outcry still ensued. “I’m offended with people coming into our community and telling us how we’re going to operate our community,” former Trustee Gordon Robertson declared. “We are a friendly community. We take care of our own.” Chirico recalled that when he was a trustee, the village was asked to join in a program that would have utilized trains to bring in visitors, who would have transferred to tour boats to see West Point and similar sites. The organizers proposed that “we’d get half the revenue,” he said. “It never passed in the village. People just didn’t want it.” Now the idea of mooring commercial boats at the dock is on the table. “We’re not saying we don’t want this,” Chirico added. “But we want it the right way. It’s going to be our way.”
       “I think that’s why we’re dealing with these issues,” said Gallagher, who has advocated increased use of the dock. “We’re trying to address them and get as much information as we can and take our time to do it.”  
Photo by L.S. Armstrong


HOW WE REPORT
Trust MarkThe Current is a member of The Trust Project, a consortium of news outlets that has adopted standards to allow readers to more easily assess the credibility of their journalism. Our best practices, including our verification and correction policies, can be accessed here. Have a comment? A news tip? Spot an error? Email editor@highlandscurrent.org.

6 thoughts on “Cold Spring Board Hears Concerns of Residents, Boaters, on Docking at Pier

  1. As a river town, shouldn’t we all have access to the river? The boat club members are the most vocal about not allowing a change in the code. They have their access. We need to encourage more tourism and enjoyment of our portion of the river. It’s one of the most beautiful in the region. I agree that we are limiting ourselves by not opening that third door to inviting boaters to enjoy our town and contribute to it’s coffers. Just because some villagers didn’t want change in the past, does not mean we are stuck with inertia in the future.

  2. As a river town, shouldn’t we all have access to the river? The boat club members are the most vocal about not allowing a change in the code. They have their access. We need to encourage more tourism and enjoyment of our portion of the river. It’s one of the most beautiful in the region. I agree that we are limiting ourselves by not opening that third door to inviting boaters to enjoy our town and contribute to it’s coffers. Just because some villagers didn’t want change in the past, does not mean we are stuck with inertia in the future.

  3. Yes we are a river town, and yes we all have access to the river – we can drive to the river-front, walk to the dock, even launch a boat from the Cold Spring Boat Club or a kayak from Foundry Dock Park.

    The article above concerns usage of the dock by large commercial vessels. The Cold Spring waterfront has always been open and available to personal watercraft via the Cold Spring Boat Club and their docks. Last year alone they had hundreds (if not over a thousand) boats dock for day use.

    I believe the meeting detailed above was to hear resident’s concerns about the docking of large vessels (i.e. the tugboat Cornell in the photo, and possible “leaf-peeper” ships) – specifically how the docking of these ships might effect cadmium pollution under the dock, and the quality of life of Village residents and other users of the dock/waterfront.

    I guess the point that residents (such as Mr. Robertson) were making is that when boat captains are appearing before Boards to push to open up the Cold Spring dock to commercial vessels, it might not be so much about possible money that will fill the “coffers” of Main Street businesses – but more about the money these boat companies will see by having Cold Spring as a stop on their itineraries. Before any decision is made, all voices of Village residents should be heard and most importantly all impacts to Village life should be considered. What impact will a large commercial boat, carrying a few hundred tourists, have on the public facilities, garbage collection, and traffic surrounding the waterfront? Not to mention the impact on river views and usage of the dock by non-boaters, that having a large vessel moored for an extended period of time will cause.

    The Cold Spring waterfront should be seen as an environmental and community asset first and foremost, not necessarily a way to cash in.

  4. Yes we are a river town, and yes we all have access to the river – we can drive to the river-front, walk to the dock, even launch a boat from the Cold Spring Boat Club or a kayak from Foundry Dock Park.

    The article above concerns usage of the dock by large commercial vessels. The Cold Spring waterfront has always been open and available to personal watercraft via the Cold Spring Boat Club and their docks. Last year alone they had hundreds (if not over a thousand) boats dock for day use.

    I believe the meeting detailed above was to hear resident’s concerns about the docking of large vessels (i.e. the tugboat Cornell in the photo, and possible “leaf-peeper” ships) – specifically how the docking of these ships might effect cadmium pollution under the dock, and the quality of life of Village residents and other users of the dock/waterfront.

    I guess the point that residents (such as Mr. Robertson) were making is that when boat captains are appearing before Boards to push to open up the Cold Spring dock to commercial vessels, it might not be so much about possible money that will fill the “coffers” of Main Street businesses – but more about the money these boat companies will see by having Cold Spring as a stop on their itineraries. Before any decision is made, all voices of Village residents should be heard and most importantly all impacts to Village life should be considered. What impact will a large commercial boat, carrying a few hundred tourists, have on the public facilities, garbage collection, and traffic surrounding the waterfront? Not to mention the impact on river views and usage of the dock by non-boaters, that having a large vessel moored for an extended period of time will cause.

    The Cold Spring waterfront should be seen as an environmental and community asset first and foremost, not necessarily a way to cash in.

  5. Not everyone who would like to access the river; sail, sight-see, catch a breeze on the water; own a boat. Maybe they are not active enough to rent a kayak. Looking at the water drifting by is not the same as traveling on it, really enjoying it. Many of the people who could enjoy being “on” on the river could arrive by train. Many are already in town, working or living here. We’re not talking massive cruise ships. We are discussing a small tour boat or stops by paddleboats, sailboats or other nautical delights taking on passengers and taking them on an adventure. Surely we can arrange for trash disposal and other conveniences as have other surrounding towns. As for our cadmium pollution, experts are suggesting ways we can support the boat traffic without disturbing the contamination. We should be thankful for their insights instead of resenting them because they are not residents. It’s an overstatement to say they are trying to tell us how to run our community.

  6. Not everyone who would like to access the river; sail, sight-see, catch a breeze on the water; own a boat. Maybe they are not active enough to rent a kayak. Looking at the water drifting by is not the same as traveling on it, really enjoying it. Many of the people who could enjoy being “on” on the river could arrive by train. Many are already in town, working or living here. We’re not talking massive cruise ships. We are discussing a small tour boat or stops by paddleboats, sailboats or other nautical delights taking on passengers and taking them on an adventure. Surely we can arrange for trash disposal and other conveniences as have other surrounding towns. As for our cadmium pollution, experts are suggesting ways we can support the boat traffic without disturbing the contamination. We should be thankful for their insights instead of resenting them because they are not residents. It’s an overstatement to say they are trying to tell us how to run our community.