By Michael Turton
The Cold Spring Boat Club building will be demolished as a first step toward the cleanup of toxic coal tar found beneath the structure and adjacent parking lots. The Cold Spring Village Board finalized its decision to agree to the building’s removal at its meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 14), part of an end-of-the-month deadline from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – the agency that will oversee the cleanup. The boat club must vacate the building by Sept. 1 of this year.
Meat and potatoes
The decision, along with other issues affecting the club’s future, was part of a lengthy, rambling and at times edgy discussion among village trustees and club members in the audience. In the end, trustees directed Village Attorney Mike Liguori to draft a letter assuring the club that demolition of the building will not terminate its lease of the village-owned property. The letter to DEC will also request that when the cleanup is complete, the site be left in a condition suitable for constructing a new building there.
In addition, the Village Board will begin to work on what Mayor Ralph Falloon referred to as the “meat and potatoes” of a new lease agreement between the village and the club at its Tuesday (Jan. 21) workshop. All discussions regarding the new agreement will be held in public session as required by New York State’s Open Meetings Law.
Members of the boat club have for some time expressed concern that removing the building could jeopardize the organization’s future. And as he has at previous meetings, Falloon assured them otherwise. “I don’t want this to be ‘once the building is down – sorry to the boat club.’ The reason for tearing down the building is to clean up a hazard – not to change our relationship,” he said.
What will DEC leave behind?
A major question mark has been what state the property will be in after the cleanup. “The $64,000 question is what is the DEC leaving us with?” asked Trustee Matt Francisco. If the condition of the site were to require major work to prepare it for erecting a new building, costs would increase significantly – a factor that could affect a revised agreement between the village and the club. Francisco said he would “ … not want to commit the village to something we can’t deliver. That’s not good for any of us. My job is to protect the village.” The boat club has consistently said that a new building will result in no cost to the village.
Boat Club Commodore Mark Patinella said he had spoken with DEC officials who shed light on the agency’s plans. “They will put the property back in a buildable condition,” he said. After excavation is complete, the site “will be backfilled … with ‘Item 4’ (gravel) then compacted. A (concrete) slab can be put right on it.” Patinella said that DEC recommends that the building’s footprint not be altered. “They’re willing to work with us – and save us tremendous cost. We want to avoid doing work twice. And we want be able to move forward with fundraising ASAP.”
When asked by Falloon if the club’s fundraising is guaranteed, Patinella said, “Yes. We’re going to build a building. It will be as affordable as (possible). It will be beautiful – and at no cost to the village.”
The devil is in the details
Numerous details still have to be resolved before a new agreement can be reached. “We’re making assumptions about what the village would like in the building – such as washrooms,” Vice Commodore Brad Petrie said. “We’ve had discussions, there have been ideas, but we need to be able to plan. We need a partner who is on the same page.”
One of the larger obstacles to the two sides ending up on that same page is the issue of increased public access to the club and its facilities – as recommended in the 2012 Comprehensive Plan. “It (a new building) is only a great deal for the community if the whole community gets to have access …” said Trustee Stephanie Hawkins. “This is a huge capital project – not just for the boat club but for the village … it requires greater community input regarding how that facility is going to be used by the community. I know that’s not really popular with the boat club.”
Petrie responded that the boat club is constructing a new building only because the village is doing a cleanup and that the club wants to cooperate with that initiative. But he said, “I don’t feel this should be an opportunity to renegotiate the basis of the boat club’s existence … Our starting point has been to be open to do whatever we can. We’ve tried to seek out what the village feels would be reasonable expectations for the club.”
“I (wasn’t) suggesting renegotiating the boat club’s existence,” Hawkins countered. “We’re talking about use of public property … this is a club … a small group of people … not exclusively people from Cold Spring, not exclusively people from Philipstown. Your partnership is with the community – not just with the five of us,” she said.
A 60-year history – and changing demographics
Petrie pointed out that the boat club has existed for almost 60 years and that its lease with the village has been renewed, essentially unchanged, through many administrations. “We’d just like to continue what we’ve been doing – and do it in a way that provides additional benefits to the village,” he said.
Hawkins said she believes the property should be used by club members who want to enjoy boating. “I want the boat club to be there,” she said. “But over 60 years the demographics of the club have changed; the demographics of the community around it have changed and we need to be responsive to people who are asking questions.”
Public input will be sought
Asked by Francisco if discussions with the boat club trigger the need for public input, Liguori said, “If you renegotiate it is important to do that – whatever the final terms are – it’s part of the process.”