Put it on the Benedict Road-Kemble Avenue hillside?
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Cold Spring Village Board last week began exploring ideas for replacing the current Village Garage with a public park, relocating garage functions to another site — possibly a village-owned debris-dumping ground on the hillside connecting Benedict Road with Kemble Avenue.
The discussions came at an Aug. 7 board workshop as a bare-minimum quorum — three members — continued reviewing the Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy [LWRS].
Last fall, the State of New York accepted the LWRS, predecessor to an anticipated full-scale Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan/Program, which, despite its name, would encompass the entire village and provide a frame for riverside improvements, economic vitality, control of property taxes, historic preservation and maintenance of village character, community services and facilities, storm-water and wastewater management, and land use, including options for the publicly-owned Dockside and Village Garage areas and the privately-owned Marathon tract.
More sweeping in scope than the village’s similar Comprehensive Plan, an LWRP would link village policy to federal and state initiatives on waterfront protection.
The LWRS notes that the 2-acre Fair Street Village Garage site, on a bluff above the Hudson, offers “stunning views of the Hudson” but has been criticized for giving the village an ugly face when seen from the river. The LWRS recommends turning the site into a public park, eventually with a small inn-cum-conference center, over three phases, beginning with landscaping, creation of a simple esplanade, benches, path to the adjacent municipal parking lot, and other basic features, sheltered from the railroad, on about half an acre.
In the second phase, the large salt shed would be removed, the green space enlarged, and a small community center constructed. The third phase would entail transferring all garage functions to another location and adding a small inn to the site.
Mayor Seth Gallagher commented that the village might want to merge phases 1 and 2, to avoid mixing park enjoyment with garage work. “I think it would be difficult to have anyone over there at the site and use it as it is. I just don’t think a park is feasible if you have a garage there at the same time,” he said.
In response, Marie Early, an audience member who serves on the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-LWRP, and Trustee Bruce Campbell suggested that park access might be seasonal or on weekends only to start.
Trustee Matt Francisco described the garage property as “an amazing space for public access. The trucks now have the best view in the town, the northern entrance to the Hudson Highlands.” He suggested that the village decision in 1994 to turn the bluff into a garage wasn’t the wisest long-term move and added that “this is a chance to fix it.”
“The key is finding another place” for garage functions, the mayor said.
The LWRS outlines a possibility: a village-owned property that begins at the end of Benedict Road and continues down the hillside to Kemble Avenue, north of the West Point Foundry Preserve. Local architect James Hartford, assisting the Special Board, drew up plans showing how the garage might be fitted to the Benedict-Kemble site by being dug into the hillside and “tucked into the landscape,” as he put it Aug. 7.
His plans also call for a landscaped public park on the Benedict Road lot, with terracing and a “cascade of stairs” for pedestrians going up and down the hillside. Along with other amenities, the park would provide additional on-foot entry to the foundry preserve, currently being revamped as an upgraded historical park by its owner, Scenic Hudson.
However, the Benedict-Kemble garage scenario prompted immediate reservations on the part of Trustee Bruce Campbell, who inquired how traffic would maneuver. Questions also arose about kindling “not-in-my-backyard” hostility.
Campbell pointed to still unfulfilled plans for developing the Marathon property on Kemble Avenue, where limited entrance and egress via Rock Street and Kemble Avenue are seen as potential obstacles.
“I can’t see how even Marathon is going to get anywhere, ever, with that traffic situation. I can’t get past it, to talk about Marathon without having that resolved first,” he said. If the village moved its garage to Kemble Avenue, “I just can’t visualize salt and delivery trucks going through,” Campbell said. “Unless you can get in and out of that location logically and safe it doesn’t make any sense to me, none of it.” Furthermore, he said, “all these ideas sound fine until the things start happening and you get complaints [from residents]. It sounds negative, but that’s what’s going on here sometimes.”
Hartford told the board that “there was a lot of back-and-forth between me and the Special Board on what could be done” with the Benedict-Kemble property, “and I did pretty much answer all the critiques” about traffic patterns and everything else.
“When residents do [object], it doesn’t matter” if a project sounds workable and beneficial to the whole village, Gallagher observed. “I think one thing, as we’ve found, is you generate all sorts of public antipathy for any kind of change.” Thus proposing anything new in effect “is creating a negative situation” and more controversy, he said. “It’s difficult to go into that, knowing this.”
The village currently uses the Benedict Road lot for getting rid of leaves and yard scraps hauled in by trucks. While neighbors do not seem to mind the debris-dumping, they might oppose conversion of the lot into a public park, Gallagher said.
“A park is bad?” Francisco wondered.
“Yeah,” in the opinion of some villagers, Gallagher answered, “because it brings other people in.”
But he didn’t advise that the board give up. “On this one, I’d say we sort of email some stuff around and put our ideas on paper” and see what emerges, he said.