Invites written comment before final decision

By Kevin E. Foley

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has determined that there are four potential new locations for what it describes as a “Cold Spring retail services post office.”

Currently the village post office is housed in a temporary trailer adjacent to the Foodtown supermarket building where it has operated for the past year after losing its lease in the Foodtown expansion.

The USPS has moved its back office operations for mail delivery and bulk shipments to the Garrison post office on Route 9D where it appears they will remain.

In a letter dated Feb. 2 addressed to Mayor Ralph Falloon, Joseph Mulvey, a USPS real estate specialist based in Milford, Massachusetts, informed the mayor that his agency is considering four possibilities for a new village location.

The possible sites (shown below) include:

  • The old VFW building at 34 Kemble Ave. recently sold by the town government to a private owner;
  • A building at 159 Main St., which currently houses the Powers and Haar insurance agency;
  • Expansion of the existing post office site, which would require a new temporary site proposed for the empty lot at the corner of Benedict Road and Marion Avenue right behind the trailer;
  • A site that would involve new construction at the corner of Chestnut Street (Route 9D) and Paulding Avenue, which would presumably place a new building on the site of the proposed Butterfield development. (There is another such intersection opposite St. Mary’s church.) Federal law exempts the USPS from state and local building regulations, setting up a potential issue over the final approval of current site plans.

According to Mulvey’s letter: “No decision to select a site will be made for a minimum of 30 days. Any member of the community or your office may offer written comments on any of these properties within this time frame.” The comments are to be mailed to Mulvey in Massachusetts. His address is 2 Congress St., Room 8, Milford, MA 01757.

The village trustees and the mayor are expected to take up the letter at their meeting Tuesday night (Feb. 10) at the Village Hall.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Foley is the former managing editor of The Current and a partner in foleymyers communications in Northampton, Massachusetts.

21 replies on “Postal Official Offers Possible Sites for New Post Office”

  1. I think a new post office at the current Powers Haar office site on Main Street would be a good addition in terms of a high volume retail center. There has been past discussion of a bank taking over the space with the acknowledgment that a great deal of renovation needs to be done. Even if the owners were to do the fix up, I wonder if we would get another retailer who could make a go of the space. I hope that this idea gets some serious discussion as it could be a big help for the other business owners in terms of bringing in potential customers during the week when things are pretty slow.

    1. I agree with Patty Villanova that locating the Post Office on Main Street would be ideal, but the Village should first address parking. A simple solution — metering spaces using multi-meters, set at hourly rates to encourage turnover — would provide the capacity to allow people to park while they do their business at the Post Office.

      The Post Office would provide a vital “real service” anchor to the street, and draw local residents, which would serve to keep Main Street healthy, and an asset to the community.

  2. Michael, I think it is pretty plainly recognized by now that parking meters are not going to materialize until resident parking permits happen. And that takes and effort though the state legislature. That process is ongoing, but not complete.

    As for for the Powers & Haar building. That building is owned by Rhinebeck Bank. Rhinebeck bank also owns Powers & Haar. The initial concept put forward to renovate the building included both a retail bank branch (a Rhinebeck branch, of course) as well as keeping the Powers & Haar branch.

    What’s not clear is that the 159 Main Street site is the only one of the four suggested that would be in a bigger building that housed more than just the post office. The question here should be if the Post Office planned on buying the whole building (which I find unlikely) or if they planned to rent (which I think would run counter to what I think Rhinebeck Bank has said they want to do regarding the building).

    1. Resident Parking Permits that exempt Cold Spring residents from paying to park on Main Street would be unwise. Such permits should apply only to residential side streets, and implementing such permits should not be required before the Village moves forward with metering Main Street.

      Main Street is a business district, and has a serious problem with crowding on Weekends and holidays that can only be fairly addressed by metering. Delays only reduce the Village’s income, and prolong the agony of drivers trying to park on Main Street on busy weekends.

      There’s a lot of confusion about Residential Parking Permits. The zone west of the tracks has permits, but they exempt residents from the 4 hour time limits — to prevent commuters (who typically need 8 to 12 hours in the space) from taking spaces residents would like to use. There is no precedent in NY State law that I am aware of to exempt residents from paying for a metered space. It will take years — decades perhaps — for such exemptions to be allowed. To argue that any metering of Main Street must wait for exemptions for residents is not only mistaken (such exemptions should not be allowed for Main Street), it will kick the can down the road into the next century.

      1. Michael- I have read many of your thoughtful comments on parking meters and can only relate my experience in Peekskill where I had a shop for 8 years before coming to Cold Spring. I still have family down there so am familiar with both the Business District and residential areas. Of course, Peekskill is much bigger than CS with a population of about 25,000 people and a great deal of vehicular traffic all day long because of its location.

        The main Downtown Business District is entirely metered and there are metered parking lots as well. Most of the old fashioned meters are 2-4 hours and some that are in front of banks or high use areas are 30-60 minutes. I think the cost is now $1 per hour. Most of the residential areas do not have meters and there is some kind of alternate parking arrangement in places.

        Although the City raises a very significant amount of money from their meters, many of the business owners are not happy because they feel that they are losing customers who get parking or other tickets for expired registration and/or inspection stickers. I can tell from my own experience that if a customer got an expensive ticket, I wouldn’t see them again. The feeling is that the malls on Route 6 all have free parking with no hassles so that is obviously an attraction.

        I can imagine that the idea of having muni meters in the Village is attractive for all the reasons you have stated. I can attest to the madness of the parking situation on Main St. during the nice weather when parking is at a premium. In addition to all the visitors, there are a number of merchants who insist on parking in front of or near their shops, something that could easily be stopped if the 4 hour limit was enforced by the local PD in those instances.

        Also, why is it necessary to have so many spaces off limits down by the Village Hall? There must be at least half a dozen prime spots that are “no parking.” I do think it was helpful to remove the painted lines that had artificially created such large spaces and it seems that more cars can fit.

        I look forward to seeing how this issue will be dealt with in the near future as all the projects we are reading about start to get going.

        1. The best study of metered parking that I have read is Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking. The book delivers a vast range of statistics, analysis, insight and creative ideas. I was surprised to learn that meters were not invented (in 1935, in Oklahoma City, if memory serves) to earn money for their towns, but to ease parking congestion in urban business zones. A way of thinking about metering is that, overall, traffic and business improve significantly, but this improvement can be accompanied by some bad customer experiences. Listen carefully to people’s complaint’s about poor enforcement, and wonder what would happen if the Village had very good enforcement with such a poor method of determining parking violations. Metering — with the right prices, and with fair and effective enforcement — greatly improves access with no loss of proximity (that is, people don’t have to walk a quarter mile through a huge parking lot to get to the shop in the mall).

          Peekskill uses the old-fashioned lollipop meters, which are expensive to maintain and user unfriendly. I would argue that, pound for pound, Cold Spring is more of a tourist destination than Peekskill. This suggests to me that Cold Spring would be more successful with metering its Main Street, where access is the key issue.

          One very interesting development in the Village is the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (Cold Spring to Beacon), which passes through the Village, and runs just past the Village’s municipal parking lot on Fair Street. The Village could, under NY State law, meter that lot tomorrow, and even exempt local residents who had permits (without the legislation it would need to exempt residents from having to pay for meters on streets, which are governed by NY State law). In my view the permits for that lot should be sold, not issued freely, and they should be seen as another revenue source for the Village. A single multi-meter could pay for itself in weeks, with the 47 spaces in that lot.

      2. The parking permits would likely be side street focused. However, to execute meters without a side street permit system in place would likely mean a significant spill over of otherwise main street parkers diverting to those side streets.

        The idea regarding using the flowershop space as a post office is good one indeed.

        1. “Side Street focused” parking permits won’t do a thing to ease crowding on the side streets, unless you are arguing that only people with permits could park there — which some folks might have in mind, but really makes no sense at all.

          Again, think carefully about what the parking permit is actually permitting people to do. Typically, it is to stay longer than posted time restrictions (usually 4 or 5 hours). So let’s say that residents in the Village (who have taken the trouble to obtain permits) are permitted to park as long as they want on the side streets. What is the likely result? Visitors will come as they always do and fill the available spaces. Residents will not bother to move their cars (they are exempt from the time limits, remember), and there will be overall reduced access to parking. The bottom line is that parking will be crowded on weekends on the side streets no matter what — whether Main Street is metered or not, and whether residents have permits or not.

          This should lead us to conclude that the Village should go ahead with metering Main Street, and then (and only then) work toward gaining the right to issue permits to residents to not pay for metering on side streets (which fall in a residential zone). This will take many years (requiring new NY State legislation), but it would ultimately actually ease the parking problems on Cold Spring’s side streets. This is because the side street meters can be priced at an hourly rate designed to create vacancies. The residents could then take advantage of those vacancies (and find spaces to park), and not pay. The side street meters would thus provide both parking access and a fat income for the Village.

          Under no circumstances should residents be exempt from paying for meters on Main Street itself, in the business district. There, the priority should be to improve parking access for businesses.

  3. Thanks for all the info, but getting back on topic, I sincerely hope that the Powers Haar building could become the next post office for Cold Spring. There would be a tremendous influx of people on weekdays that would do wonders for the businesses on Main Street and don’t forget, there are limited hours on Saturday and they’re closed on Sunday so parking wouldn’t be such an issue as far as people coming in and out. On the other hand, I don’t know what they will do as far as the vehicles for the staff and/or any other cars or trucks they use.

  4. Trustee Michael Bowman suggested at the Tuesday night Cold Spring Village Board meeting (2/10/15) that the Post Office be asked to consider moving to the building where Carolyn’s Flower Shoppe is located on Main Street (the flower shop is closing, and the building is now offered for rent or sale). The shop has the advantage of a large parking lot, and is an important “anchor” business on the street.

    Obviously, since the Postal Service is looking to rent, and would need only the ground floor of the building, there might need to be a third party involved, but I think Bowman’s suggestion has real merit. I hope someone on the Board will take the initiative and start a conversation between the Postal Service and the owners of the flower shop.

    1. This is the first I’m hearing of this excellent suggestion which I think is probably the best one yet for the post office. Carolyn’s parking lot is huge and I’ve often thought that the Village should consider buying the whole parcel if for nothing else than parking.

    2. This is the best (and most realistic) idea I have heard yet. Far superior to the four options the USPS are considering and an added bonus of bringing more people to Main Street (and hopefully into the shops and food establishments) during the week. How do we get this done?

  5. I think the idea for the post office at Carolyn’s has merit too. Need to consider traffic flow & management (turning off & onto Main Street across sidewalk, etc.) — especially weekdays & Saturdays at closing time!

  6. Yes, a very good idea to look at Carolyn’s. I’ve thought so many times as I’ve passed it. Thanks to Trustee Bowman for bringing it up. Main Street would benefit from the post office– you could buy and ship things out right there.

  7. If Carolyn’s can’t work (which, by the way, I think is a GREAT idea), what about the parcel across from the Depot restaurant, which I understand is also available?

  8. Having read the letter from Mulvey, I’m confused as to which sites he refers to. He may be erroneously referring to Route 9-D as Chestnut, which is not the case adjacent to the old hospital property. He also refers to the temporary trailer relocation site for the Foodtown site as the southwest corner — but wouldn’t it be the northwest?

    “Chestnut and Paulding” could be (a) one of the commercial buildings part of the Butterfield development, (b) a new site at the corner of Paulding, 9-D and Chestnut not currently in the Butterfield plan, or (c) part of St. Mary’s land (although that would be at the corner of Wall Street, not Paulding).

    The letter is simply too vague and the Village and the broader community — all of us — need more information.
    While I agree that Carolyn’s Flower shop certainly presents an intriguing possibility (especially in terms of parking and ADA access), we don’t know if the current owner would even consider offering a lease. Since the property is for sale, it is more advantageous to sell a site that is unencumbered by leases than otherwise.

    The Powers and Haar building is also a reasonable candidate and would be a plus for Main Street, but Rhinebeck Bank has not yet submitted any plans for its renovation and reuse AFAIK. Although their presentation in 2013 was well-received at the meeting I attended, there were considerable issues relating to parking, ADA access and use of and impingement on Village r-o-w that do not appear to be resolved.

    Moreover, the four sites listed in the Mulvey letter are not apples-to-apples comparables. Although the post office is entertaining comments from the public, the decision will likely be made (in no less than 30 days!) on the basis of how much space is offered and how it can practically be configured, parking and access, and very importantly financial terms, not limited to base rent but also including tenant work letters and allowances, escalations, renewals, additional fees, etc.

    Finally, I find it odd that we do not hear of Rep. Maloney’s involvement when this is a federal function we’re dealing with. Isn’t that part of his job? We need more information and we should not be relying solely on county and village officials to procure it.

  9. Carolyn, you raise some excellent points, especially about Congressman Maloney. I find it incredible how little we hear from our elected officials (including County and State) when something of this magnitude occurs that will affect so many people of their constituencies.

    As far as Carolyn’s flower shop property (which is right across the street from my store), I don’t know how viable it will be if the USPS actually has to buy the property as opposed to renting it. I don’t think this is in the cards given the efforts of the owner to sell it. If the only Main Street. option is Powers & Haar, I think that would be fantastic as well. It would be such a boon to Main Street for everyone.

  10. The post office at Powers & Haar would be really rough for the residents on my street — Furnace — which presumably all the truck traffic would be brought through. I for one would be very opposed to it.

    The parking is already tough there for residents, and it will get much worse. Currently P&H employees come and park for the day in the lot, with not much customer traffic. That would change completely with the USPS there.

    The post office use is unfortunately a very suburban thing, and all the cars coming and going for five-minute transactions best fits in the car-oriented portion of the village – along 9D.

  11. Clearly no existing building is a perfect fit. James is correct: the amount of short-term auto traffic generated by a retail post office requires easy in-and-out parking which is only currently available on Route 9D.

    At the last HDRB meeting that I attended the topic of the post office at Butterfield came up. As I recall, the response was no recent contact was occurring between Butterfield Realty and the USPS. Does that mean that USPS is really contemplating the St. Mary’s property?

    And one has to wonder what the USPS was thinking if they even considered the old VFW. Did anyone even visit the site and look at the access issues?

  12. I thought the post office had moved all the trucks, etc., to the Garrison post office, which was retrofitted to be able to handle that aspect of mail delivery. It seems that the trailer outside Foodtown is just handling mail and packages. I haven’t noticed any trucks parked there. If the P&H building is chosen, I imagine that the Village would set up 15-minute parking spaces out front for patrons to quickly get in and out. Also, that block of Main Street is pretty quiet during the week when the post office would be open.

  13. Is the property across from The Depot Restaurant a possibility? It certainly fits the criteria of easy, short-parking, and because the Post Office has early, short hours on Saturday it would not hog many valuable weekend spaces . . . and the Depot/Ice Cream Shoppe might benefit from folks who want to grab a lunch bite and otherwise meet up at a casual, pleasant setting.

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