Also accepts waterfront revitalization strategy

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Working through a lengthy agenda in a long meeting, the Cold Spring Village Board on Tuesday, Nov. 15, voted to install STOP signs to slow traffic on Northern Avenue and enhance safety on Church Street and discussed re-routing the weekend trolley to accommodate hikers and dispense with extraneous trips. The board also formally accepted the Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy (LWRS) prepared by the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and agreed to immediately forward it to New York State. Subject of public forums over the last several months and part of a state-federal initiative, the LWRS closely replicates but in some ways goes beyond the draft local Comprehensive Plan, which the Special Board panel likewise prepared and which the Village Board has intermittently edited since last January. A public hearing on the Village Board’s latest Comprehensive Plan version is scheduled for Nov. 29.

On a 5-0 vote, Mayor Seth Gallagher and Trustees Bruce Campbell, J. Ralph Falloon, Charles Hustis, and Airinhos Serradas changed the village code to allow placement of STOP signs on Northern Avenue at the junction with Church Street. In talks with residents last summer, including at least two gatherings held on site, the mayor and board members debated ways to enhance safety on the narrow but frequently traveled street, with historic homes set close to the pavement. At the time, neighbors were (and remain) divided over other traffic-control measures, such as narrowing the breadth of the Church Street-Northern Avenue intersection. Church Street opens in a sweeping funnel-shape onto Northern Avenue, a configuration that critics contend encourages speeding and others argue poses no real problem. But those on both sides of the question agreed that installing STOP signs makes sense.

In a letter to the board, K.C. Grossman, who lives at 39 Church St., raised concerns beyond the need for STOP signs and referred the board to the test use of cones last summer to mark a new layout for the intersection, nipping it in with a curb “bump out.” Reading her letter aloud, Grossman said that “some members of the community seemed incensed by the cones. They shook their fists … accelerated around the corner and knocked the cones over,” and early in the trial, someone pushed the cones close to the sidewalk, undermining the experiment. Likewise, she stated, “my husband and I have heard very disturbing talk about the life of one child being acceptable collateral damage” if the street remains the way it is. “Finally,” Grossman concluded, “I’m concerned that this matter is becoming a divisive issue within our community and hope that we can resolve it as quickly as possible in a way that averts tragedy.”

Another homeowner, James Geppner, also voiced concern. Vehicles “really fly around the corner very fast. Very few roads around the village have a mouth that just encourages speeding” the way the Church-Northern intersection does, he said.

Donna Steltz, a neighbor, remarked that speeding occurs on many village streets and questioned the cone experiment. “I don’t think the cones really slowed people down. I don’t think it’s that dangerous” a street anyway, she said.

Karen Virgadamo, of 20 Church St., suggested installation of speed-limit signs. On most residential streets in the village, the speed limit is 15 miles per hour.

The mayor observed that when complaints arose about speeding on Bank Street and on Pine Street a few years ago, the village installed STOP signs and took other steps to control traffic. In enforcing the law around the village, “sometimes we find it’s the people in the neighborhood” who are the speeders, he said. For now, he and the trustees opted to try the STOP signs and increased policing, and no further discussion of “bump outs” or other changes ensued.

Trolley Riding
When audience member Tom Rolston raised the question, the board began discussing a possible re-routing of the trolley that travels from the train tracks in Main Street through Cold Spring and Nelsonville to Garrison. Rolston urged the Village Board to take up the issue with the federal government and Putnam County, both involved in getting the trolley for the village, to change the route. Instead of driving to Garrison’s train station, where the train already runs, he suggested that the trolley could stop at Boscobel but also take riders to trailheads at Bull Hill and Breakneck along Route 9D, and perhaps to Fahnestock State Park, along Route 301. “We should provide a service to the hikers,” he said. At present, hikers walk along Route 9D, a narrow road with limited or no shoulder, posted 55 miles per hour in parts. “The hiking thing is frightening” along 9D, Gallagher concurred. “They did have a death related. It was someone parking. They were backing out and [someone] did get hit.” The entire board seemed amenable to a potential route change, and Gallagher proposed they call a public meeting on the topic and solicit ideas and assistance in pursuing them.

Special Board Matters
Along with accepting the LWRS from the Special Board, the Village Board voted 4 to 1 to transfer $1,000 from the Village Board’s distinct account for its Comprehensive Plan review to the overall Comprehensive Plan budget category, to cover expenses not reimbursable under the state grant otherwise funding the project. Likewise, the Village Board added $6,463 to the Comprehensive Plan expense-line and the Local Waterfront Revitalization grant revenue-line – resulting in what Accountant Ellen Mageean termed “a zero” effect – to cover financial interactions expected in fiscal 2010-11 but rolled over into the 2011-12 year instead. As he has previously, Serradas complained that he has repeatedly sought a detailed financial budget from the Special Board, but never received it.

Gallagher replied that the Special Board has provided adequate data on its spending of the grant money and that a single trustee cannot tell a committee of volunteers, like the Special Board and other village sub-boards, or even village employees, to undertake specific assignments, which can become a form of “berating” and a sub-board and undermining its work. Demanding such material “is beyond your role. You’ve got to do it as a board,” he informed Serradas. “That’s asinine,” Serradas countered – and cast the lone “no” vote to the transfers.

Audit Preview and Code Clarification
Before the formal monthly meeting got underway, the board received a draft preview of the audit report for 2010-11. The document was not made public, but James F. Letterio of Sedore Hudson Valley CPAs, a Poughkeepsie firm, indicated that overall the village was in good shape but that “the fund balance in the general fund is a little on the low side” although it used to be worse and has been “moving in the right direction.” Unlike many municipalities, whose ledgers end up on the negative side, Cold Spring has reserves, he commented. The final audit report is expected to be available soon, and be made public.

In a bit of legal housekeeping, the board also revised language in the village code to make two sections of code compatible. Attorney Stephen Gaba explained that the law should reflect that non-conforming structures and non-conforming usages of property “are not the same at all, really” and to make related changes involving undersized parcels. “We’re cleaning up the code and clarifying two sections,” he said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government