Some residents criticize ‘flat roof’ building, mass and scale
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The design of the proposed Butterfield redevelopment drew more support than criticism at a Wednesday night (April 22) public hearing by the Cold Spring Historic Interest Review Board, moving the long-controversial and long-running project closer to realization as a multiuse, multibuilding complex anchoring the southern entrance to the village.
After a two-hour session that filled the meeting room in the Cold Spring firehouse, the HDRB kept the hearing record open until April 29 to allow submission of written comments. At an upcoming meeting, the board must draft a resolution with its decision on the redevelopment. For months already, it has worked with the developer, Paul Guillaro of Butterfield LLC, the property’s owner, and his team, in refining the plans.
The hearing focused on architectural elements of the intended structures and their compatibility with the character of a place that began as a river hamlet and became an official village about 170 years ago.
Not all attendees at the hearing chose to speak. Of those who did, many were familiar faces, if not because of prior interest in Butterfield then because of their roles in other civic contexts.
Before their chance to talk came, Ray Sullivan, the project architect, explained that the commercial buildings, including one labeled Building 2, were designed with the HDRB’s help to blend in with the existing Lahey medical clinic on the site and with other surroundings, while the structures designed as homes — condominiums for residents aged 55 and above, and three stand-alone houses — were meant to be more “residential” in appearance.
Building 2 is envisioned as the location of a Putnam County senior citizen center, and perhaps other governmental offices, although the county recently has backtracked on the idea of installing a range of agencies there. The plans call for demolishing the old, decaying Butterfield Hospital.
Like the Foodtown and DrugWorld shopping strips, Butterfield lies along Chestnut Street/Route 9D, a state highway, facts that also influenced some of the public comments.
Building 2 was both praised and panned. One critic, Rena Corey, who lives on Chestnut Street, objected that with its flat roof and overall lines it resembles something from SoHo in New York City circa 1930 or “like a leftover in a Wappingers bleaching complex” or similar industrial structure. “I have no idea what relation that has to the village of Cold Spring. It looks almost worse to me than the 1960s or ’70s Foodtown complex,” she said.
But at least three other speakers described Building 2 as appealing.
Former Cold Spring Village Trustees Matt Francisco and Stephanie Hawkins criticized the mass and scale of the overall project, likening it to development in Westchester (a more populous suburban county) or a closely built university.
“I just don’t feel it’s in keeping with village character as a whole,” Francisco said. He expressed concerns about “the impact all that density brings,” although he noted that he finds the look of the commercial buildings “very successful” and backs the redevelopment of the site.
“The campus of senior [age 55-plus] residences is uncharacteristically massive” and the structures “loom over neighboring properties,” Hawkins stated. “We don’t have three-story dormitories anywhere else in the village.”
Philipstown resident Robert Dee (who chairs the town government’s Zoning Board of Appeals) offered a different perspective as he encouraged the HDRB to approve the project. “It does fit the historic needs of the town [Cold Spring], he said. “I think it would be a big boon.” And, he added, to laughter, “I’d like to move in there.”
John Cronin, who lives on Paulding Avenue across from Butterfield, mentioned the derelict hospital and advocated its replacement with something better. Right now, “I’m looking at a fallen-down building where children do drugs. It’s a paintball target … and inside it’s a drug den,” he said. “Let’s talk about the alternative.” Moreover, “Chestnut Street is a mess,” he said. “This [Butterfield] is going to set a new standard on Chestnut Street. It’s going to be good for the village” as a whole and good for the neighborhood,” Cronin predicted.
Photos by L.S. Armstrong