No support voiced for full scale restaurant
By Michael Turton
If nothing favorable happens when the Dockside site on Cold Spring’s waterfront is eventually redeveloped, it won’t be for lack of attention. At the June 7, 2011 meeting of the Special Board/ Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), Dockside was once again the focus of attention as stakeholders and board members zeroed in on two proposed plans for the property. While in the past many meetings have been limited mainly to brainstorming, this session was more about what works and what doesn’t. Special Board Chairman Mike Armstrong described the gathering as a “mini-hearing” on Dockside.
Comments at the meeting by Bill Baumann, manager of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks will probably carry significant weight since the Village of Cold Spring is working out an agreement with the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Places to manage the state-owned property for which Baumann is also responsible. He said that the state would likely favor a series of renewable five-year lease agreements rather than longer-term agreements. Baumann commented on the two concept plans that have been put forward by the Special Board. One emphasizes community recreation, access to the Hudson River and trails linking the site to the rest of the village. The second plan proposes a full-time, full-service restaurant with some but fewer recreational opportunities.
“I think you are being a little generous on parking,” Baumann said of recreation-oriented concept plan that calls for 36 parking spots. Baumann suggested that 25 spaces would be more appropriate. He does not support the idea of a year-round restaurant. “I don’t think a full scale restaurant is what we’re looking at – probably something more seasonal like a clam bar. They (the former restaurant owners) had a tough time back then – it would be even tougher now,” he said, referring to the sluggish economy. He also said that with 72 parking spaces a full time restaurant would have a negative impact on the landscape. “You don’t want a restaurant there unless it’s popular – and popular means lots of parking.” Cold Spring resident Peter Henderson supported the idea of limited parking. “Keep it low key. We don’t want to attract the world…It could become a municipal parking lot,” he said.
Baumann is enthusiastic about using Dockside for improved access to the river. “I love the (proposed) kayak ramp. I hope it can be opened up,” he said. New Special Board member Dick Weissbrod questioned why a kayak ramp is needed since one already exists at the Foundry Dock opposite the Metro-North parking lot. “I hear comments. A lot of people tell me it’s not desirable, access is difficult,” Baumann said. He also advised the board to look at the significance of weddings being held at Dockside. He said that at least 25 are being held there this year. A serious challenge in redeveloping Dockside is the need for improved shore protection, an expensive undertaking, and Baumann had some cautiously encouraging news. “DEC (the Department of Environmental Conservation) is looking for a pet project along the river and I think we’re in running for shoreline stabilization (at Dockside). It hasn’t been highly publicized but they’ve asked for projects.”
When asked by a board member if he thought a dog run some have suggested for the site would be a good fit, Baumann said it could be considered. Two members of the audience said that they felt such a facility was not the best use of waterfront property.
Building Bridges Building Boats (BBBB), a local nonprofit program currently operating out of the Foundry Preserve may find a new home at Dockside. The program builds and then uses small boats to teach boating skills to young people and families. Locating BBBB at Dockside was suggested as a possibility in the Comprehensive Plan. BBBB representative David Hardy said that the group would need to build a shed to store its equipment, but that its use of the site would be unobtrusive. “We’re pretty low impact. We may have 20 kids there maximum, but then we just go away (by boat)!” Hardy said that the program needs river access and that Scenic Hudson’s plans at the Foundry Preserve include tearing down the shed that BBB has used for several years.
Cold Spring resident Ray Fusco addressed the recreation-oriented plan at length. “Keep it simple,” was his repeated message to board members. He said that creating formal paths at Dockside was a case of “over designing” the site. “Grass is good enough for me,” he said. Fusco had several specific comments about flaws in the proposed design of small docks, fishing piers and other shoreline features, although he also said that the drawing was only a rough concept created by someone not intimately familiar with the shoreline. He endorsed whole-heartedly the creation of a substantial dock large enough to support educational vessels such as the Clearwater. He cautioned against under-designing boating facilities which could lead to higher costs later if demand requires upgrading the facilities. When it was suggested that the main dock in Cold Spring may be adequate, Fusco said that there are problems there – that some of the sheet piling may be in disrepair and that restoration will be difficult because it would involve disturbing contaminated material on the river bottom. He also said the size and design of the current dock limits use. As an example he said that when the Mystic Whaler docked recently it took up most of the dock, something that creates conflict with local fishermen. He also questioned the creation of transient boat slips at Dockside. “If you open (the slips) to the world, it may not be the Dockside you’re looking for.” Fusco encouraged BBBB to think about establishing a year-round facility, one that could include indoor rowing machines that could be used for both teaching and fitness. He spoke against a full scale restaurant, pointing out that Main Street offers several such establishments.
Earlier in the meeting, Armstrong reviewed recent developments that he said underline the relevance of the Comprehensive Plan, which is now in the hands of the village board. “Jazz Reach,” a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization, has expressed interest in the Village of Cold Spring garage site as a possible venue for live music. Vice-Chairperson Anne Impellizzeri said that more than one site should be looked at for such a proposal and that developer Ken Kearney has mentioned a similar public meeting place could be considered at the former Marathon Battery property, which he owns. Philipstown.info asked why the truck yard would be considered for a music venue when the public had suggested that a performance stage could be located at Dockside. Armstrong said that more parking at the truck yard makes that site more viable. Marie Early disagreed, saying that Dockside should not be discounted based on parking because it has been used successfully in the past for music events such as Community Day and the Summer Sunset Music Series.
Armstrong said that other recent developments include a proposal to install mosaic art in the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad and the use of Dockside this summer for outdoor movies. He also said a letter submitted by John Dunn suggests a moratorium on zoning variances until the LWRP is approved.