Letter: Let’s Reduce Building Dept. Expenses and Wait Times

If you’re a village homeowner with home improvement plans, you should ask Trustee Michael Bowman why he opposes code updates and building department improvements that can reduce the expensive variances and permit wait times we experience now.

Trustee Stephenie Hawkins, against all odds, helped win the village $75,ooo — free money to update our code, but Bowman filibustered, first arguing the money was illegal — “Not so,” said the village attorney. With the PCNR’s help he objected to one “green” provision in the contract — the village attorney removed it. He said two months wasn’t enough time to read a contract. He wants bids from other contractors although the one already named, GreenPlan, has proven itself to the village with three-plus years of “excellent” (Special Board Chair Michael Armstrong’s assessment) work, and now Bowman demands a larger committee to work on the zoning updates.

He opposes Mayor Ralph Falloon’s and the Town of Philipstown’s efforts to provide the village full-time Building Department service at no added cost, persuading Trustees Cathryn Fadde and Bruce Campbell to vote against these improvements, too. Building Inspector Bujarski works valiantly to meet the demands of his job but it’s impossible. I wrote to our buried inspector June 5 regarding a permit and I have yet to hear from him — this is typical, no matter who the inspector has been. A full-time department will be more responsive. Free, efficient, and Bowman says “no.”

If Bowman’s not working on behalf of village residents to make government less complicated and less expensive, who is he working for?

Michael Robinson
Cold Spring


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14 thoughts on “Letter: Let’s Reduce Building Dept. Expenses and Wait Times

  1. In reading the above post it is apparent that Mr. Robinson believes that Trustee Hawkins should be given carte blanche with the village’s affairs and that Trustees Fadde and Campbell do not have minds of their own when it comes time to making decisions. Of course, the Town wants to take over the Village Building Dept at no added cost as it would profit extremely well with the fees that are coming with the demolition / rebuilding of Butterfield. During the last meeting I viewed Mayor Falloon also voted for postponing the merger of the village Building Department for one year, but I suppose Mike also was able to persuade him to vote this way? No, Mayor Falloon has a mind of his own, thank goodness.

    Mike is working on behalf of the village residents as is everyone on the Village Board and to think any other way is outrageous. Opinions are always welcome, whether good or bad, Mr. Robinson, and thank you for your opinion.

  2. I must concur with Mr. Robinson’s assessment. I have followed this issue with great interest, and was quite pleased when the village was awarded $75,000 to update our inappropriate zoning code, and thank Trustee Stephanie Hawkins for her diligent efforts in securing same. However, by standing in the way of progress in this matter, Trustee Michael Bowman is certainly not acting in my interest or in the village interest, but rather in his own political interests – which apparently are served by being an obstructionist to an excellent initiative.

    Also, why is it that Trustee Bowman’s positions are always defended by his wife or mother? While their voices are certainly welcome, they were not elected. Michael Bowman was, and he should be responding to village residents rather than his family.

  3. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Laifer,

    Thank you for voicing your concerns regarding the issues of Building Consolidation and NYSERDA. I invite you both to our next Village Board Meeting where you can address your comments and questions to the Village Board during public comment.

    Mr. Laifer, to address your comment above directly, my family often takes some of the “criticism” that you and Mr. Robinson express toward me personally. I feel that my family has written wholeheartedly and from love, and I appreciate their words.

    I have made it a policy not to address posts on social media, blogs or comment sections. To do so would only add to the perpetual campaign that seems to be being pushed in the Village.

    Again, thank you for voicing your concerns and for participating in the democratic dialogue, and please come to our next meeting and speak to us during public comment.

  4. I think the focus should be how the current building department is operating with available funds from the village budget. There is always an opportunity for improvement and that has always been the focus of the village board, “How can we make things better with the funds we currently have?” In concept the idea of consolidation of building departments seems to be a good idea, but the question should be: “What will the village residents gain from this possible opportunity?”

    Consolidation is great if it’s a fair and even playing field for all parties. Getting the bang for your buck and making the almighty dollar go far is the motto of life for hard-working taxpayers in the world we live in.

  5. Contrary to Trustee Bowman’s suggestion, I don’t agree that village residents should be required to sit through multi-hour Board of Trustee meetings to make their concerns and comments known at a late hour on a weekday. I suggest Trustee Bowman revisit his policy of limiting his responses to residents in that limited forum, and acknowledge that 21st technologies provide for a more expansive and thoughtful dialogue in electronic form.

    Once the Bowman-Fadde team implements their promised video recording of these meetings (still waiting…), the entire village can conveniently “attend” them virtually anytime by watching these recordings online, and they should also be able to respond and ask questions of their representatives via electronic means.

  6. I will take your suggestions into consideration. Although the digital age of social media does provide an easy means of communication, I would definitely hesitate to say that I have witnessed any “expansive or thoughtful dialogue” occurring. In fact, honestly, many of the online communications (and written ones, for that matter) I have witnessed the past year have left me feeling very disgusted in the way that neighbors treat one another when not face to face. As a result, I’d rather talk to residents in person, either on the street, at a meeting, or by appointment as many have done via my email address.

    On the topic of videotaping our meetings, I would like to thank you for providing video coverage in addition to other outlets of every single meeting (save one, I believe) since March. Cathryn and I continue to work towards finding a cost effective way of providing the service to every board in the Village. We could just easily throw money away in order to satisfy a “campaign promise” but that would most definitely not be in the best interest of the taxpayers.

    Again, thank you for your suggestions and I will gladly sit down and discuss any issue you may have.

  7. Thank you for the offer, but personal conversations accomplish nothing towards connecting the village community as a whole to our government. That requires easy access to meeting videos and an open public dialogue which encourages participation and familiarity with the issues. The archaic methods currently employed actually discourage participation. Contemporary communication technologies commonly used by businesses, organizations and individuals the world over need to be deployed here. They are inexpensive, available and easy to use, beginning with posting reliable and official meeting videos.

  8. I see the conversation has continued, but I have a couple of points to make.

    Firstly, I’d like to address Mr. Laifer’s earlier post: Would you have been so quick to raise the issue of family support for Trustee Bowman had it been his father and his brother offering their opinions? I don’t think so. You would have come up against two men stating that they had every right to speak their minds – and rightly so. I saw your comment being directed as a means of slighting Mr. Bowman by using a sexist stereotype to imply that he has to be rescued by females. I resent that.

    Secondly, to you, Michael Robinson (and I consider you to be a friend), please try to give Trustee Bowman the benefit of the doubt. I believe he is trying to take a large number of villagers’ interests to heart when making his decisions. The fact is, this village is in the process of gentrification. Perhaps it’s not as dramatic as it played out in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where I first witnessed it — indeed, as an artist, I was unfortunately playing a part — but there has definitely been an influx of homeowners who can afford to make significant home improvements in the past two decades. This greatly affects other Cold Spring residents- sometimes in positive ways (their houses in turn increase in value) and negative (their children can no longer afford to live in their family’s hometown). Trustee Bowman as well as other trustees are aware of varying perspectives and interests. I believe they are doing their job to best represent all of villagers.

    With regard to the building department’s lack of staffing and time, I think having two distinct individuals accountably fill the positions of head and assistant would go a long way towards spreading the work load. Both are paid positions as far as I understand, though Mr. Bujarski currently wears both hats (as well as Zoning Inspector and Police Officer, for a total of four hats). I also question whether the time the building inspector invests is always in the best interest of the department or the village. Clearly, when he has chosen to authorize inspections of foundational work for buildings where foundational work had not been permitted (in the public record), he has not been wisely using department time — or his authority, I might add.

  9. Ms. Peehl has brought up a very real problem in our society of double-standards towards women, albeit one that does not apply here. I fear that those who create straw-man arguments using sexism accusations when not warranted do the cause of eliminating this double-standard great harm.

    It is a fact that Trustee Bowman’s mother and wife always defend his positions online rather then Mr. Bowman himself, regardless of their gender. I stated that residents are entitled to hear from the trustee directly rather than his family, and I do so again.

  10. Michael, since you have weighed in (and thank you for doing so), can you elucidate for us why you voted against consolidation? I read The Paper and I’ve watched Steve’s videos and I don’t understand what your argument is. Is it the point that your mother brings up, that the fees go to Philipstown? (And sincere gratitude, Marlene, for the civil way in which we are able to disagree). Because personally, I pay taxes to both the Village and Philipstown, so I’d rather those fees be allocated to the people that will use them more effectively. What we have going on here is anything but effective. I mentioned only the most recent significant wait time but there were more examples of it which I’m happy to substantiate to you if you wish. And it was certainly a problem with George as well (never dealt with James professionally). Again, I believe that Bill is doing his best with no resources. He’s not the problem.

    Sue, (yes! my friend!), if Michael and Cathryn had run on curbing gentrification they would have won by a much greater margin. I don’t know anyone who has moved to Cold Spring for that good old Westchester experience. I’ve never heard them mention gentrification once, and I was following their rhetoric pretty closely. And I’m not sure how an ineffective building department, delaying rezoning and policing young trees helps this cause anyway. Can you explain?

  11. Hi Michael R! It’s interesting how this public arena has become a private little conversation. You pointed this out earlier I think when you wrote that all of three people were following another particular thread. (I made four.)

    It’s a strange little forum in that way. I think that might be one reason why, if I were Trustee Bowman, I would not be responding regularly. But he’s already weighed in on that topic. I do question why other board members aren’t being held to personally account for each stance they’ve taken, as Trustee Bowman has been. I wonder if that’s seen as the other paper’s job, given that we now live in a seemingly divided community, unfortunately.

    I don’t believe it has to be that way.

    To your points: I didn’t ever state or mean to imply that Michael Bowman (or Michael and Cathryn) ran on a platform of gentrification. Nor did I ever say they mentioned it. Please, go back and read what I said if you understood otherwise.

    What I presented was my observation of something that I believe is going on that affects our community. I used the wording “not as dramatic” – not Westchester. But I believe the process is such that it can divide different residents on several issues, and I’m not talking about Republicans vs. Democrats.

    Take the school, for instance: When I first voted in the school election here, I (without children) reasoned that a vote for increased funding was a vote to provide opportunities for local kids, which in turn would create a better community. I support community. I happily reported back to a neighbor, who had kids in the school, that I had voted YES. Imagine my surprise to find that my vote had just cancelled out hers. She was worried about the tax increase and where that extra money was going to come from. Was it going to come out of caring for her children? I now consider hers as well as others’ and my own interests before I cast my vote.

    What I said in my post above was that Trustee Bowman as well as other trustees are aware of varying perspectives and interests. I also said that I believed that they were doing their jobs to best represent all of villagers. I still believe that.

    I weighed in on what I thought could help matters within the building department as I — like you — have had firsthand experience with the current state of things. I did not attribute any of what I was saying to Trustee Bowman. I have not I weighed in on any sapling matters. I have put my hat in the ring as a community member who is interested in discussing rezoning. I think it’s a good idea to include members of the public. If that’s what’s taking the process a little longer, then I whole-heartedly agree and want to be involved as the pace quickens.

    I hope this clarifies anything left murky by my earlier post. I appreciate this forum: Individuals can contribute ideas, voice concerns and point out things as they see fit — hopefully in an inclusive, non-threatening environment. I think the tone changes significantly however, when someone has an agenda or is looking for a fight. It’s difficult not to take up those challenges, but in my experience they never result in furthering awareness or fostering new ideas — two things we desperately need more of.

    I’ll look forward to further posts of yours, Michael, and maybe a good talk sometime soon.