Postal service seeks new Cold Spring site for retail operations

By Michael Turton

Two representatives of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) listened and responded to a litany of complaints and suggestions regarding Philipstown’s two post offices at the Feb. 11 (Tuesday) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board. The meeting was held in Haldane’s music room to accommodate the larger than usual audience.

Cold Spring’s post office recently moved its retail operation to a trailer at the south end of the Foodtown Plaza, a move necessitated by the upcoming expansion of the supermarket. Letter carriers for Cold Spring now operate out of two trailers at the Garrison post office.  Coincidentally, the Garrison postal facility is also undergoing interior renovations.

USPS will soon begin a search for a new retail post office in Cold Spring.

A number of Garrison residents expressed concern and frustration over noise, safety and communications related to the recent changes at their post office.

Joseph Mulvey, Real Estate Specialist with USPS, and Neal Fitzpatrick, manager of post office operations, both assured those in attendance that the trailers in both locations are a temporary measure.

Grassi Lane (Photo by Kevin E. Foley)
Grassi Lane (Photo by Kevin E. Foley)

Diane Travis lives on Grassi Lane which is adjacent to the Garrison post office. She expressed annoyance over the increased truck traffic brought about by the recent developments and voiced displeasure over the fact that no one informed local residents of the changes in advance. She was also very critical of USPS for having created two new driveways off of Grassi Lane — even though it is a private road which residents are responsible for maintaining.

“We’re working people, not millionaires,” she said. Carolyn Bachan, one of a number of Cold Spring residents who supported the Garrison delegation’s concerns, asked if USPS has considered compensation for those living on Grassi Lane.

Goldee Greene, a resident of Alfalfa Lane, located immediately behind the Garrison post office, was one of several people who complained about the noise created by idling USPS trucks. “I’m very upset. I can’t take any more trucks … tell those drivers they have to shut those machines off!” she said.

Philipstown Town Supervisor Richard Shea stressed to USPS officials that Grassi Lane is a residential area and that the changes at the post office adversely affect quality of life there. He urged them to find a more suitable location for bulk operations, saying that he had been misled into thinking that the Garrison post office would be returned to preconstruction conditions — which did not include the bulk operations. Mulvey said that bulk operations would remain in Garrison for several months.

County legislator Barbara Scuccimarra also weighed in, critical of USPS for changes at the Garrison post office “just appearing” without notice while in Cold Spring numerous steps were taken to inform residents. She also said that a temporary post office could have been established at the Butterfield site in Cold Spring.

Finding a suitable site for a new post office in Cold spring is a key next step. Mulvey said that USPS is looking at rental properties only because funding for construction of a new facility is not available. He said about 900 square feet are required for the new retail operation. A new bulk operation could be located elsewhere.

Several suggestions were put forward for a new Cold Spring post office location. Jackie Snyder and Tom Allen made a pitch for a commercial property they own on Route 301 in Nelsonville. Other ideas included the Butterfield site, a lot adjacent to The Nest daycare, the M&T Bank property, the Powers & Haar building, and 37 Main St., near the pedestrian tunnel. One intriguing suggestion was to put the new post office inside the expanded Foodtown.

Mulvey said that written comments about Tuesday’s meeting could be sent to him up until Feb. 26. Correspondence should be sent to: Joseph Mulvey, Real Estate Specialist, USPS, 2 Congress St., Room 8, Milford MA, 01767-9998. He said that potential sites for the new Cold Spring post office will be posted once determined and public comment solicited. When a site is selected he said Mayor Ralph Falloon will be notified and that there will be a 30-day appeal period.

Chair of Special Board critical of Village Board

Michael Armstrong, Chair of the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, addressed trustees near the end of the meeting. Armstrong expressed dismay over the fact the Village Board has not acted on the Special Board’s recommendation that a working group be established to develop concept plans for the Cold Spring Boat Club.

The club building will be vacated by September and then razed. The boat club is in the process of determining how the building will be replaced after cleanup of coal tar beneath it is complete. The club’s lease of the property, which is owned by the village, runs through 2014. Armstrong has disagreed with the Village Board’s interpretation of that lease, saying that he believes the razing of the building negates the agreement. Trustees have accepted Village Attorney Mike Liguori’s interpretation that it does not.

Falloon and Trustee Matt Francisco have been meeting with boat club leadership to determine next steps. At Tuesday’s meeting both Falloon and Francisco rejected the need for a working group. Francisco said that once the boat club determines a framework for how it wants to proceed, public comment can then be sought. He also said that the club membership has not yet come to a consensus on how to proceed. In the end, Falloon said that he and Francisco would continue dealing with the boat club and that a working group was not needed.

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17 replies on “Residents Pepper USPS Reps with Complaints and Questions”

  1. The Village’s 20-year lease with the boat club was signed in 2003 and runs to 2023. That lease includes this clause (#18):

    “In the event the property or any part thereof is appropriated, condemned or in any way removed from the ownership of the landlord, then the loss of such part or entire premises shall cause the lease to be terminated and neither party shall have any further right or claim as against the other.”

    Based on that clause, the Special Board proposed and the Village Board accepted language in the Comprehensive Plan (which was adopted unanimously January 2012) that relies directly on that cancellation provision:

    2.2.3 Recommendation: In the event that the DEC and the Village agree to remove contamination below the building and it is torn down, re-think the uses of the entire property from the river to Market Street, while ensuring that a reconstructed Boat Club facility is a part of the resulting plan.

    That is, recognizing that the lease would be terminated in the event the building was demolished, the intention was to set in motion a process to rethink the entire use of the village-owned site, not just the Boat Club-used portion of it.

    By framing the matter of what to do with the Boat Club site as one of negotiating a lease agreement, and by inviting proposals for use of the site exclusively from the Boat Club, the Trustees have set up a process that is cloaked in secrecy and that lacks the openness envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan for determining the “entire use” of this Village-owned property.

    I have the highest regard for the Boat Club and its contribution to the Village. But if the site lends itself to shared uses, does it really make sense to ask the current tenant to define those uses, and negotiate terms of a lease based on their vision? What if it would benefit the whole community to have other tenants share the site? What mechanism is there for reaching out and engaging others, for making this a community project that could win grant funding? Where is the recognition that this is a huge opportunity for Cold Spring, for the economic vitality of the waterfront and the expanded enjoyment residents could have of this property?

  2. What Mr. Armstrong fails to realize is that this is a landlord-tenant discussion. His proposal from the special board would inject an inappropriate third party into the discussions. Leave the negotiations between the landlord (village board) and the boat club (tenant). Don’t hurt something that is good for the community. We’ve screwed up the village as it is and we don’t need to do more to screw it up. I love my boat club and I want to see it there in the future.

  3. The Village Board has chosen to cast the determination of the uses of the Boat Club site as a landlord-tenant discussion: It need not. It could choose to defer negotiations until after an independent working group made up of Boat Club members and other interested residents have developed and tested concept plans for the site with the public, and made recommendations.

    What appears to me — and many others — is that the Village Board lacks any clear vision for alternative uses for the site — uses which could engage partners who could bring welcome funding, greatly improve resident enjoyment of the waterfront, and — always, always, always — protect the welfare of the Boat Club. I believe that the best way to develop that vision is through a public process that invites the community to come forward with its ideas for this site.

  4. Presuming that the Section 18 clause of the Village/Boat Club lease is accurately copied in a previous post, then I believe it is being misinterpreted.

    The Village’s action to condemn the Boat Club building (essentially condemning against itself) does not appear to be what is contemplated in Section 18. That clause, to my reading, involves an action by an outside party (say the state or federal government) against the Village. In the current situation, the Village at no time loses possession or ownership of the Boat Club property and merely uses DEC as its agent to demolish and remediate. Unfortunately, it seems that this misinterpretation was the basis for the Comp Plan recommendation.

  5. Carolyn Bachan’s argument is an interesting one, since it requires us to accept that the demolition of an asset — the Boat Club building — cannot fairly be characterized as a loss of possession. However, this entire lease discussion is beside the point — it’s the “wrong question.” All parties agree that the current lease is, or should be, voided. Any replacement structure would cost so much that the Boat Club is demanding a new, much longer term lease (reportedly 49 years).

    So, here it is: Should the Village first determine how the Village-owned Boat Club site should be used (through an open, public, process), and only then negotiate a lease or leases with the identified user or users? Or should the lease come first? The Comprehensive Plan says the Village should first determine — “rethink” — the uses. That much is clear.

  6. For the record, I am not a member of the boat club, so I don’t have a personal interest in its preservation. However, I do question attempts to “re-think” the use of that property. What other tenants could feasibly use a space that has been ideally modified to fit a marina? And what grants are being suggested for what community projects? The “community” has Northside, which has, incidentally, sat vacant since its acquisition by OSI so many years ago. Let’s let the community figure out what it wants to do with Northside first, then worry about appropriating the boat club.

    Having a private entity manage the property has served Cold Spring and Philipstown since its formation. It is staffed by volunteers (hard-working ones) and is essentially self policing. To have this be handed off to a public entity will only serve to grow government and raise everyone’s taxes.

  7. The community already has a plan for Dockside, and you can find it in the Projects section of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy (LWRS), on the Village Website. Currently, the DEC is working with a consulting firm to prepare plans for shoreline stabilization at Dockside, using the LWRS (among other sources) for its proposal — a first draft of which should be presented to the public in April. An important next step is getting the draft management agreement back from the state Office of Parks, Recreation (current owner of the property) for the Village to assume management of the site.

    There are many, many potential ways to share the use of the Boat Club space — for kayak storage, showers for boaters, rest rooms, a cafe, a visitors’ center/harbor management office, a playground, a garden, Building Bridges Building Boats, a control panel/back up generator for the West Street pump station, and I could continue. What is important, however, is not what I think would be the best uses of the site, nor what you think, nor what the Boat Club thinks, but what the community — all of us together, through an open public process, comes to agree is best for that site.

    The Boat Club pays the Village nothing for the use of this Riverfront property, neither in rent or taxes or remitted fees. This despite the fact that the Village collects the trash and covers a significant portion of the insurance. The Comprehensive Plan calls for increasing revenues from the Boat Club to the Village, which could help serve to keep property taxes down.

  8. New York State owns “Northside” or what Villagers have long referred to as Dockside. The state and the Village are currently negotiating an agreement through which the Village will manage activities at Dockside. And the Village has extensive plans/proposals on how to manage Dockside. These are included in the Village Comp plan and the LWRS and draft LWRP. No Villager that I know of wants to “appropriate the Boat Club.” That is a dog whistle.

    The Comprehensive Plan essentially notes, soto voce, that the Boat Club has a very sweet deal: a club that pays no rent and writes its own rules. It does not seem unreasonable that Villagers can expect something in return besides good will, especially from the roughly half of the membership that does not reside in the Village. The discussions do not include higher taxes. That’s another dog whistle. Instead, the Comp Plan calls for investigating ways to generate a very modest revenue flow from activities at the Boat Club property to the Village.

  9. Is this actually proper? A private boat club on our most valuable, waterfront public lands without any compensation to the village taxpayer owners? On the surface it would seem like misappropriation of public property and I would love to learn how it came about. Normally one would expect to see a return from a property like that, which could contribute to lowering village taxes instead of costing us money, as Mr. Armstrong points out. Am I missing something here?

  10. The boat club is a non-profit organization, so the fact that they live “rent free” is a consequence of their charter. It’s not like the members are pocketing profits. They, through the sweat equity of their members, provide a service at no charge to the village by maintaining the property and presenting an attractive entry into the village from the river. It writes its own rules for the simple fact that it is a “working” club and must set rules for the order of its members. In exchange for this consideration, the members enjoy a reasonable slip fee and/or membership fee. I see it as a win-win for the village and the members, not just a “sweet deal” for boaters. If they need to start paying for their trash collection, so be it.

    As for shared use of the property:

    1) How will the proposals for BBBB, playground, garden, et al actually fit within the property boundary, assuming the boat launch, canopy and limited parking are allowed to stay? If you have ever been there on a prime boating day, it is a challenge to negotiate things with just the present configuration.

    2) Public restrooms/showers, always a good idea, are problematic in practice because they need to be maintained and policed. What entity will have responsibility? Will this be forced upon the boat club in exchange for their “sweet deal”, or will the village need to hire staff or contract services and inevitably affect taxes?

    3) Kayak storage. Why not at the launch point for kayaks or at Northside?

    4) Lastly, what is the compelling interest to have the public entity manage this site when a private entity has performed this task so well?

    My point here is that any change to the status quo needs sound reasoning. So far, all I’ve read is legal wrangling and sour grapes.

  11. Actually, being non-profit has nothing to do with getting the facilities rent free. Many non-profits pay rent, often to governments. This seems to confuse the concept of being tax exempt (for goods purchased for or sold by the not-for-profit) and being free of all obligations to government.

    The comments on the possible other uses for the site were meant to challenge the idea that the only use the Village should consider for the site was to use it for the Boat Club exclusively. Of course, all those uses won’t fit at the same time — I never suggested they would!

    My plea is that this community should have an open, public process to frame and discuss alternatives for the Boat Club site (while including the Boat Club in any plans), to have that “re-thinking” of this site called for in the Comprehensive Plan. Remember that any action taken on the site, by any agency, will need to be certified as consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Think carefully about that.

  12. I am so tired of hearing about how everyone has to agree, or we need to form a committee or there needs to be open discussion all the time. We elect people into office to work on behalf of us, so that things can actually be accomplished. The Village Boards of the past few years have accomplished very little when it comes to the major items presented to them because everyone is so busy whining about having a committee to discuss it. Open government is a great idea – but let’s not make the Boat Club another Butterfield, shed, post office, Dunkin Donuts etc… Either trust the people you put into office or elect new ones because nothing is getting done. BO/FA!

  13. It’s a great mistake to think that democracy only works during elections, that “We, the People” do not need to be engaged and vigilant during the week-to-week functioning of our local government.

    Even good elected officials make mistakes from time to time, and would welcome suggestions and guidance from their constituency. Take a look at the procedures for changing laws, approving budgets, setting fees, etc. and you will in every case find the public is a welcome part of the process. The wise men and women who over many decades developed those procedures never say “Just trust the people you elect!”

    Democracy is messy. At times it takes more patience than a hundred saints could muster. The faith is that, given accurate and complete information, the people in the community can and will (almost always) find and support good choices. That is why it is so important for the Village that a wide range of options for the Boat Club site be developed and explored in an open, public process. The current course is the wrong one, and will take us to the wrong place.

  14. I agree – public participation should be welcomed and is very important, especially at the local level. However, this Village has taken public participation to a new level and rather than assisting, it is hindering progress. Things are taking far too long to be accomplished and it is not acceptable. Suggestions and guidance are different from committees that have sub-committees that have input from other committees. Public comment on items on the agenda at a public meeting are a great way to get your opinion heard, and interact with local government.

    I also agree that the current course is the wrong one for the boat club. Too many people are already trying to throw their hat into the ring — it’s going to take too long to make a decision and then we will be forced to launch boats at Chelsea Marina because there won’t be a boat club — just like we have to go to Cold Spring’s “Post Trailer.”

  15. A general concern about “things taking too long” should not stop us from taking reasonable measures to ensure that the public has a say in the uses of an important community asset. The Special Board would organize a working group of seven to nine people made up of resident Boat Club members and other interested residents to hammer out concepts for the use of the Boat Club site that would be presented and discussed in public workshops. This would take about four months, and the working group would be charged with presenting recommendations to the Village Board. The objection that we don’t have time for that is not credible to me.

    Some of the delays in the case of the Boat Club “project” are the result of the Boat Club’s own actions. By initially opposing a full clean up of the coal tar by the DEC, the Boat Club took the risk that neighbors — concerned, not without cause, with the continued toxicity of the site — would overturn the initial Record of Decision. That’s what happened. Why not learn the lesson that these projects move fastest where there is public support rooted in an open, public process of decision making, without closed-door agreements?

  16. Reasonable measures would absolutely allow for thoughtful discussion and input. However, reasonable measures would also allow for a reasonable time frame for things to be handled and completed. After four months, the Special Board working group will present its recommendations, and then the Village Board will need to review and who knows how long it will take for a decision to be made. Something tells me nothing will be decided by the time September rolls around. This is an issue involving toxins on Village property — by all means, let’s take our time and figure it out so that everyone can be happy — never mind the risk to the residents.

    What projects have moved faster in Cold Spring “where there is public support rooted in an open, public process of decision making” within the last couple of years? None that I have seen. It amazes me how one small Village can get so little accomplished in recent years.

  17. Yes, the Village Board would need to decide on “next steps” after getting the recommendations on the Boat Club site use, but isn’t it more likely that their deliberations will lead to a better outcome — one that is better supported by the community — if they wait for those recommendations, than if they plunge ahead with a lease agreement now? By taking time to think the issues through, new partners could be identified, new sources of funding and grants could be explored, and a consensus on preferred uses could be established — all of which would benefit everyone, including most especially the Boat Club.

    I would be much less dour about the accomplishments of the past few years. The Village completed major infrastructure projects on its water supply (dam repairs, water main lining, reservoir access, a potential new source in Jaycox pond, to name a few); the Village went from a deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars to a surplus of hundreds of thousands of dollars; the Village adopted a new Comprehensive Plan. Lighting on the main dock was enormously improved, and the dangerous barriers that had been there for decades were replaced by safe and attractive fencing — at very little cost to the Village. The debate over Dunkin Donuts — portrayed by some as government interference with property rights — resulted in a new law prohibiting formula businesses that is widely supported. We are on the cusp of a badly needed overhaul of our zoning, which is in such a sorry state that it has impeded improvement of properties like Butterfield and Marathon.

    I see a community coming to terms with its challenges. We aren’t going to agree on everything, but if we lose faith in the value and importance of engaging the public to talk through the issues, what’s the point of even having a democracy?

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