Will recommend Main Street experiment
By Michael Turton
Elliott Hammond has seen the parking situation in Cold Spring change dramatically over the course of his lifetime, and not for the better. A lifelong resident, Hammond has served on the Village Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the now defunct Parks Commission.
“Parking has changed a lot. It used to be one car in the garage,” he told The Paper. “In fact there were families … who didn’t have a car at all. Now it’s two or even three cars per family … and this town isn’t big enough for that.” Add to that the change in tourist traffic. “There never used to be any visitors … now you can’t even move on the weekends.”
And to that add the increase in the number of residents who live locally but commute to work via Metro-North. Most park their car at the train station for a fee or on village streets in violation of the four- or five-hour time limit. The result? An almost guaranteed monthly discussion of “the parking problem” at Village Board meetings.
‘Committed to getting something done’
An extensive study of Cold Spring’s parking resources and challenges was done in 2008 however its findings were never acted upon. That may be changing. A recently formed parking committee has begun reexamining village parking and is poised to take action on a number of fronts. Trustee Cathryn Fadde chairs the group, which includes Hammond, former mayor Anthony Phillips, Donna Steltz, Frank Haggerty, Gretchen Dykstra and Christopher Daly. Whether by good design or mere coincidence, the committee is an equal mix of long-time residents and relative newcomers.
Fadde is impressed with the group. “It’s a great committee,” she said. “They’re focused and they’re engaged … and committed to getting something done.” Fadde said the 2008 study is being taken into account but only in addressing priority items. “We’re trying to work on issues strategically. We’re focusing on Main Street and the waterfront first.”
A Main Street trial
The lines that mark parking spaces on Main Street are about to disappear — in part at least. Fadde said that there are 99 parking spaces on Main Street — 53 on the south side and 46 on the north side. The committee is about to recommend to the Village Board that the lines on the south side be removed as part of a 90-day trial, a step recommended in the 2008 study.
According to Mike Armstrong, chair of that study group, the number of cars that can park on a street can increase by 15 percent simply by not marking individual parking spaces. That is likely true on Main Street where spaces vary greatly in size. On the block just west of Morris Avenue / Chestnut Street some appear large enough to accommodate two cars. During the trial period, cars parked in the test area will be counted three times a day to assess the effectiveness of removing the lines.
Residents, motorcycles and signs
Recently there has been a call for residential parking permits to ease the difficulties that villagers on side streets face in competing for parking spots with commuters, visitors and employees who work on Main Street. New York state regulates such permits. “The State Legislature is not in session now but we’ve reached out to Senator Terry Gipson and State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef,” Fadde said. “We have to be sure that residents don’t feel they’re being left out,” a sentiment that was echoed by other committee members who spoke with The Paper.
Fadde said that motorcycle parking is also being looked at. While some communities designate specific areas for motorcycle parking, Cold Spring does not. As a result, one motorcycle sometimes occupies an entire parking space, even though it has the capacity to handle more. Bikes can also sometimes be seen squeezed between two cars parked in marked spaces. “We’d like to figure out a way to accommodate motorcycles more effectively. If there’s a way to do that — we should,” Fadde said.
On the riverfront, the parking committee has been instrumental in making West Street one way from North Street to Main Street — a move that will reduce traffic congestion while making parking easier. “When Dockside Restaurant was active, people could drive in there and turn around,” Fadde said. But with Dockside Park now closed to traffic and Moo Moo’s Creamery attracting a large number of customers, action had to be taken to improve safety and traffic flow, Fadde said.
The new committee has also reviewed all parking and other street signage. Phillips, assisted by resident Bob Ferris, recently conducted a complete inventory and assessment throughout the village. “I was surprised how many signs there are that over the years have become redundant,” Phillips said. Fadde said that the committee will present a list of suggested signage changes to the Village Board.
The 800-pound gorilla
The committee has not yet tackled the 800-pound gorilla in the room — whether or not to install parking meters. The argument for meters is mainly about the revenue that the cash-strapped village could raise. The 2008 study put revenues at $180,000 annually based on rates of 50 cents an hour during the week and $1 an hour on weekends. Part of the downside is the cost of purchase and installation of the meters, estimated six years ago at up to $120,000. How the meters might affect residents has also been questioned.
The committee itself may reflect the debate that the parking meter issue sets off. Phillips clearly favors the move to meters on Main Street and in the municipal parking lot on Fair Street. “It’s a revenue source,” he said. “Go to any tourist town (such as) Nyack. You’re not going to find a free parking spot. Meters wouldn’t drive anyone to poverty.”
Hammond is not as sure. “I’m not in favor of meters — unless residents can be protected such as by a parking sticker program,” he said. “Residents have to be the priority. They’re the ones who pay the taxes.” He does clearly favor more effective enforcement of parking regulations.
Fadde thinks more information is needed. “I’d like to recommend meters — but not without data,” she said. Some of that data could come from erasing the parking space lines. Fadde said that experiment could show the potential for generating more revenue from Main Street parking meters if the removal of the lines confirms that the street can accommodate additional vehicles.
The overall good
The parking committee chair repeated a recent plea for understanding. “We hope people can be patient,” Fadde said. “We don’t want to make statements about any changes without some certainty. We don’t want people thinking they aren’t going to have a place to park their car.” She said that when the committee does recommend change, “We want to be sure it is for the overall good of the community … we want it to work.”
The 2008 Parking Study is available on the village website at coldspringny.gov.
Photos by M. Turton