DEC Agrees to Larger Coal Tar Cleanup

Dependent upon boat club building removal

By Michael Turton

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has told the Village of Cold Spring that it is willing to remediate coal tar from “the entire contaminated area” at the Cold Spring Boat Club, rather than undertake a cleanup of only 20 percent of the toxic material as proposed in its earlier Record of Decision (ROD).

In a letter to Mayor Ralph Falloon which Falloon read aloud at the Oct. 8 (Tuesday) Village Board meeting, Robert Schick, Director of DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation said, “DEC recognizes that substantial efficiencies could be realized if the entire contaminated area were to be remediated in a single, coordinated effort.”

Demolition cost could be covered by DEC

Implementing the larger cleanup would require removal of the boat club building since there are substantial deposits of coal tar directly beneath it. Schick’s letter goes on to state: “DEC could offer to include demolition of the building in the overall remediation project…” because the cost of removing it is relatively small and would be offset by “the logistic simplicity of a full excavation and other savings.” Part of the savings would be the elimination of the need for a barrier to be installed between the building and the parking lot to its east – the area originally proposed to be remediated in the ROD.

The Cold Spring Boat Club

The Cold Spring Boat Club

The letter states that DEC’s offer is dependent upon “…written commitment from the village to vacate the site and condemn the building…” The village would have to notify DEC of that commitment by Jan. 31, 2014, and the building would have to be vacated by Sept. 1, 2014, in order for demolition to proceed. Schick points out that if the village doesn’t make the commitment to remove the building, remediation will continue as outlined in the ROD – the so-called “20 percent solution.”

DEC says no need to reopen ROD

Schick also stated that the expanded cleanup effort can go forward, “… without the necessity of preparing a formal ROD amendment.” Trustee Stephanie Hawkins wondered about Schick’s authority to make that decision. “This isn’t the ROD,” she said. “It’s a letter from Schick. What if he isn’t the director next year? Is it customary?” to make changes without changing the ROD, she asked. Newly appointed Village Attorney Michael Liguori said it is more likely “…an administrative process they don’t want to go through.”

He recommended that the Village Board meet again to “…figure out your end game” before responding to DEC. Falloon agreed, saying, “We need to figure out what’s going on … then get information out to residents and the boat club.” The Oct. 22 (Tuesday) meeting of the Village Board will include further discussion of the coal tar issue.

Easing the boat club’s mind

Falloon expressed displeasure with the fact that the boat club had met the night before and discussed the letter – and in his view made assumptions about how he and the Village Board will proceed.

“I have no problem with others getting the letter,” he said. “But I’m not happy with the boat club assuming we have plans. We don’t. This is the first time we’ve seen this (letter) together,” as a board. Clerk Mary Saari said that Schick’s letter was received on Oct. 7 (Monday). “We can now work with the boat club and ease their minds,” Falloon said. “This is by no means a way to get rid of the boat club.” Attempts to reach the boat club’s commodore and vice commodore were unsuccessful.

Resident suggests boat club lease be renegotiated

At the end of the meeting, Mike Armstrong, a Cold Spring resident and chairman of the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, made a brief comment that will almost surely set off a village-wide debate. He pointed out that the agreement between the Village of Cold Spring and the Cold Spring Boat Club states that if the building is removed, the lease is terminated.

“This is a good opportunity to redo the lease,” he said, adding that such a move could improve village revenue – a need stressed in the Comprehensive Plan. “It’s an opportunity – don’t let it slip away,” Armstrong said. Falloon thanked Armstrong for his remarks but offered no comment.

The current agreement between the village and the boat club, established in 2003, runs through June 2023. The club pays no rent, however states that as the tenant, the club will pay, “that portion of the real property taxes as set out by the village in proportion to their use of the property … that proportion … is 75 percent.” But, because the property is owned by the Village of Cold Spring and produces no revenue, it is tax exempt. The net result is that the boat club pays nothing for its use of the property.

In contrast, the Hudson House rents the remainder of the property, a parking lot on the east side of the boat club building. It currently pays the village rent of  $364.51 per month, or $4,374.12 per year. In addition, Hudson House paid a total of $3,909.76 in 2013-14 property taxes to the Village of Cold Spring, Town of Philipstown, Putnam County and the Haldane Central School District. Between taxes and rent, the riverfront restaurant will pay the village $8,283.88 for use of the parking lot this year.

The Grove RFP still on hold

The Request for Proposals for sale or lease and restoration of The Grove is still on hold pending decisions by trustees regarding advertising and dates for tours of the site. A memo received from Carolyn Bachan, a member of the Historic District Review Board, stated that advertising costs in four publications range from $1,435 to $2,091.

Information on advertising in alternative publications is being sought. Steve Marino of Nelsonville requested that a number of tour dates be made available. He also offered to volunteer to help shore up the building, including repairing a badly deteriorated porch and roof, before winter. Armstrong, who appeared before the Village Board in April to advocate repairing the porch, called the current state of the building “a disgrace” and reminded trustees that they had pledged to fix the porch before winter.

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