Cold Spring Merchants Question Bike Event Return

Pataki promises more dialogue and better planning

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Plans by the Putnam County Tourism Office for a world-class bicycle event in Cold Spring hit a speed bump this week when several Main Streets merchants opposed anything — like closing Main Street to traffic, even temporarily — that could decrease business.

One protesting gallery owner even threatened a sit-in of sorts.

John Eustice of Sparta Cycling Inc., left, listens as Putnam County Director of Tourism Libby Pataki speaks to cyclists at the starting line on Main Street in Cold Spring on Oct. 14.Photo by J. Tao

John Eustice of Sparta Cycling Inc., left, listens as Putnam County Director of Tourism Libby Pataki speaks to cyclists at the starting line on Main Street in Cold Spring on Oct. 14. Photo by J. Tao

The Putnam Cycling Classic is scheduled for Sunday, May 5. The 2012 version, Oct. 14, produced hard feelings from some merchants over parking snarls, traffic flow, access to shops, and similar concerns. The October event drew nearly 200 cyclists who began in the village and then biked to eastern Putnam County and back.

In comment this week, some merchants were anything but enthused about the classic’s return.

“It plain sucks,” Momminia jewelry’s Steve Goodrich told fellow small-business owners in an email stream. “The merchants lost last time and will again lose tons of money.”

“Bijou Galleries is flabbergasted and disappointed that Putnam County Tourism would propose an event which will so seriously have a harmful effect on us, the people who keep this village going, and completely opposed to closing Main Street even for part of a day for the purpose of a bicycle race,” the Bijou’s Michael Timm declared. He added that “if this goes ahead, I would be happy to explore some sort of ‘civil disobedience.’ Maybe we could do a ‘middle of Main Street’ sale since it will be closed anyhow.”

“There is no way I would be in favor of having another event like this in Cold Spring,” added Patty Villanova, of the Side Effects NY boutique. “Things are hard enough as it is. The last bicycle race in October was a complete disaster as far as I’m concerned. We lost a beautiful weekend Sunday because our customers didn’t have access to Main Street and our shops.”

The Tourism office has assured everyone the street will not be completely shut down for the May race. “We won’t be closing off Main Street, and if we close a portion of it off, it will be done after public information sessions and only be closed for the time necessary to start and finish the race,” Putnam County Tourism Director Libby Pataki informed Philipstown.info on Monday. A Tourism Office news release likewise assured everyone that “we do not intend to close off all of Main Street.”

Concern about a meeting

If the race has roiled local waters, so did a meeting Pataki held at her Garrison home last Friday night (Jan. 4) with business owners to get their perspectives. Most elected officials and the press were supposedly excluded from the get-together, prompting after-the-fact questions because attendees included a pastor who is also a news reporter and past or potential candidates for local office.

Cyclists were treated to a pasta lunch outside Cathryn's after finishing the Putnam Cycling Classic on Oct. 14. Photo by J. Tao

Cyclists were treated to a pasta lunch outside Cathryn’s after finishing the Putnam Cycling Classic on Oct. 14. Photo by J. Tao

Pataki explained on Monday, Jan. 7, that she hosted the gathering to talk candidly to merchants and other stakeholders, such as clergy — whose Sunday services could ostensibly be affected by hordes of competitive bicyclists racing past their churches. “I really wanted to hear the merchants out,” she said. “I wanted the first meeting to be informal in order to allow everyone to really speak freely and openly without any concern whatsoever for being mentioned in the papers.”

Despite Pataki’s assertion, a front-page article and photo reporting on the meeting and heralding the bicycle event appeared under Tim Greco’s byline in this week’s Putnam County News and Recorder.

The Village of Cold Spring has adopted a role as a referee of sorts. In December, the Village Board scheduled a workshop on aspects of the event, including policing. Originally slated for Jan. 15, the workshop has been tentatively rescheduled for Feb. 5.

More immediately, Pataki intends to convene another get-together under Tourism Office auspices, probably on Jan. 29, and has alerted the news media and others. The first session “covered a lot of ground, and it was the beginning of what I hope will be a most productive ongoing dialogue,” she said.

Comparisons to Beacon 

One local businessman has urged his disgruntled peers to stop complaining and pitch in. “Would everybody please lighten up on this?” asked Tom Rolston, of the Depot Restaurant. “The thing will be more organized than last time, with provisions made for handling the traffic. This is a world-class event that could bring the national biking competition to Cold Spring in 2014. Instead of everyone immediately saying ‘No’ to this thing, let’s work together to see what can be accomplished. The damned village would take a negative approach to the Second Coming.” He also urged merchants to “take a look at Beacon” and its burgeoning activities.

 Plans for the bicycle race in May caused consternation on Main Street in January. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

Plans for the bicycle race in May caused consternation on Main Street in January. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

Pataki noted that for Beacon’s Community Day “the entire street was closed off, a car show was held in the middle of the street, people were seven deep on the sidewalks, the merchants were thrilled, and a great time was had by all. I don’t think we will have the same end result because our parameters will be based on the wishes of our merchants, restaurateurs, and those on the race routes. But we sure are giving it our best efforts.”

Overall, she said, the county is “really looking to do something on a high level and, again, my job is to make it all work. If there are hiccups, I intend to smooth them over.”

Cold Spring Mayor Seth Gallagher said Tuesday that the Village Board looks forward to the February workshop, bringing together race planners, the merchants, residents and police. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to iron out any problems,” he said. He was not invited to the Jan. 4 meeting but expressed no recriminations. “The meeting we want to have is one where everyone comes to the village hall” for a wide-ranging discussion in public, he said.

Gallagher’s counterpart at the town level, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, also was not invited to the Friday meeting. But according to Katie DeMarco, Pataki’s assistant in the Tourism Office, Deputy Mayor and Trustee Bruce Campbell received an invitation. Campbell works with the village Recreation Commission in coordinating events on village property.

Private race funding   

Pataki said that Putnam County outbid other jurisdictions for the race. The public will not pay Putnam Classic expenses, she said. “The race is held with donated monies. That is my job, fundraising. It does not cost the county or its taxpayers one nickel. We ended up with a profit of approximately $5,000 last year, all of which was put into Tourism’s budget for other targeted initiatives, such as end-of-year advertising to help businesses with their holiday sales.” At this stage, the exact costs of this year’s race, number of entrants, and other details are undetermined, she said.

The Tourism Office news release acknowledged the “misinformation” wafting about and cited its own “responsibility for good communication and for making sure that our businesses thrive and prosper.” The news release outlined upcoming activities, including development of maps, a look at traffic routing, the follow-up meetings, and promotional efforts. “Come join us to work on a marketing plan which will further showcase our beautiful village and county,” the Tourism Office suggested.


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5 thoughts on “Cold Spring Merchants Question Bike Event Return

  1. First of all, I would like to give some context to the quote I made that was in the email chain. In addition to saying I was not in favor of this race, based upon what happened at the last one, I have also stated over and over again that what is needed by the Cold Spring merchants is a true marketing/ promotion/ advertising campaign, such that is produced by a professional marketing PR person. The bike race is just one event that could be part of a bigger strategy, however, it seems to have created more problems than it was worth in the last go round.

    In the months before the October race, I presented Mrs. Pataki with a detailed proposal for Holiday marketing for Cold Spring and environs, but apparently there was no real interest in it; instead we got the cycling event which turned out to have the problems that were outlined in this article. I take issue with the claims that none of this costs the taxpayers’ money. Mrs. Pataki’s salary of $69,000 is roughly 40% of the Tourism’s budget of $181,000. I’m not sure what her assistant costs but I assure you that it’s coming out of the budget and not “donations.”

    Also, before I have to file a FOIL request, I wish somebody would publicize the financial information about last October’s race. How much was donated, what were the associated expenses including whatever advertising was done, and also, the cost/benefit analysis of the event. Can anyone show us in black & white how the merchants are benefited by all this? I’m sorry to be such a stickler for details, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to know how our tax dollars are being spent.

    We have been told that the May 5th race is a fait accompli and thankfully, it seems that there are some professional event planners who have volunteered their time to help out. If the bugs can be worked out to make the May 5th event a success, then I will be delighted and be the first one to write a letter to say so. However, one cycling event does not preclude the County tourism people from doing a serious, professional marketing effort for the benefit of the Village. We pay some of the highest taxes in the USA and get very little in return. Our County budget is enormous, the Planning Dept. alone is over $3 million a year, yet we see little benefit except for those who are employed by “the Government”. Main Street merchants are in trouble, not just in Cold Spring but all over the country. We are taking a hit from the weather, the internet, you name it. We really could use some help from the people whose job it is to do so.

  2. A quote from this article: “Pataki explained on Monday, Jan. 7, that she hosted the gathering to talk candidly to merchants and other stakeholders, such as clergy — whose Sunday services could ostensibly be affected by hordes of competitive bicyclists racing past their churches.”

    Are you kidding me? Please tell me this statement is a misprint. Putnam Tourism, by closing Main Street for a bike race virtually halts business for the shops and she’s worried about the churches? I find this very hard to digest. Does anyone in tourism have a clue what we need or how to market Cold Spring and/or our shops?

  3. I just read in one of the comments above that the May 5 race is a “fait accompli.” Does this mean that the Village of Cold Spring has no say in the matter? Ms. Pataki says that last year’s race made $5,000 for the County. Actually, the merchants of Cold Spring paid that $5,000 — probably more — in the form of lost revenues. So it was really like a coerced assessment. The organizer avoided the costs he imposed by passing them on to the merchants. If the organizers, including Putnam County, had internalized all costs, they would have had to make the merchants whole by reimbursing them.

    • I was told by various sources that no matter what, Cold Spring will be hosting another bike race in May. The points about the actual cost of the last race are well taken; however, we have yet to see a cost/benefit analysis of how much was spent and what the alleged financial benefits were for the merchants who lost so much business on that day.

      For example, I’m sure there must be at least one “expert” who works for the County Planning Department, who could work up such an analysis and provide it to those of us who might doubt the claims that the merchants of Main Street made as much or more money that day. Was there a head count done by the Tourism people, that would indicate how many riders and how many in their entourage? Business owners could then extrapolate how much they made or lost, based on their own historical records.

      I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Meanwhile, I am going to file a FOIL request to see if I can find out the actual cost of the last event. I will share the information as soon as I receive it, which could take awhile. It would be nice however, if the information could be provided for us and published in the local papers.

  4. Following is a quote from the article: “Pataki said that Putnam County outbid other jurisdictions for the race. The public will not pay Putnam Classic expenses, she said. “The race is held with donated monies. That is my job, fundraising. It does not cost the county or its taxpayers one nickel. We ended up with a profit of approximately $5,000 last year, all of which was put into Tourism’s budget for other targeted initiatives, such as end-of-year advertising to help businesses with their holiday sales.” At this stage, the exact costs of this year’s race, number of entrants, and other details are undetermined, she said.”

    This statement raises more questions. What was the total cost for last year’s event? I mean for everything, including labor, materials, contracts, contractors, vendors, rentals, advertising, overtime, etc.?

    What other municipalities “bid” on the race and how much money are we talking about? How much exactly did Putnam County bid to win the right to have the event? Was this a one-time process that gives us the right to hold this event in perpetuity, or is it an ongoing thing? For that matter, who “owns” the event in the first place?

    Was any of this money taken out of the $181,000 Tourism budget? Who donated money to the event and how much in total was donated, such that there was a $5,000 profit? Where was the $5,000 for holiday “advertising” spent?