Cold Spring Considers Doubling Speed Limit to 30 mph

Also, looks for solutions to leaky firehouse roof 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Village Board on Jan. 10 proposed increasing the speed limit on Cold Spring streets to 30 mph, from 15 mph, to conform to state traffic laws.

It also seeks to restrict parking on Church Street alongside the firehouse to fire company members and in front of Village Hall, at 85 Main St., to police officers, eliminating the present 15-minute Village Hall parking.

But before anything happens, the board will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Village Hall.

The code revisions would allow some exceptions, such as a school zone speed limit of 15 or 25 mph near Haldane and the 25 mph allowed along Main Street west of Route 9D, the village-controlled portion of the street which is otherwise Route 301, a state highway.

Garden Street’s speed limit would increase to 30 mph from the 15 mph now posted and parking would be prohibited for 50 feet from Main Street. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Deputy Mayor and Trustee Marie Early said during the board’s Jan. 10 meeting that she noticed the speed-limit discrepancy as she reviewed the Village Code. “New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law says the lowest you can go is 30 miles per hour,” Early explained. “So our code is not in concert with the state law.”

According to Early, the village could reduce the speed limit to 25 mph in rare cases but not everywhere in Cold Spring. She presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Dave Merandy. Trustee Lynn Miller was also absent, leaving Early and Trustees Fran Murphy and Steve Voloto as a three-person quorum.

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1643 stipulates that in a village or city, no speed limit shall be established at less than 30 mph, except for Long Beach, on the sea in Nassau County, which can restrict speed to 15 mph on certain streets. Statewide, New York also permits a 15-mph limit for a quarter mile on streets alongside schools. That’s 10 mph slower than what Cold Spring’s draft law proposes. Early recommended that residents, at the public hearing, urge that the village school-area limit also be 15 mph.

Parking would be banned for 50 feet on Morris Avenue alongside Whistling Willie’s. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Whether residents will support the abolition of a 15-mph maximum elsewhere is unclear. Children sometimes play in the streets, especially on the 19th-century blocks where homes are close to streets that are narrowed further by parked cars. Over the last several years residents of Church, Fair, and other streets have complained about speeding even with a 15-mph limit.

The fact that the board can hold a hearing on the proposed speed limit,  instead of changing the local law immediately to reflect the state standard, suggests alternatives may exist, such as a request to Albany to allow a lower speed limit in Cold Spring, a historic village heavily visited by tourists and with many pedestrians.

Other proposed traffic changes include:

  • Banning parking on the east side of Fishkill Avenue for 25 feet from Mountain Avenue; on the east side of Garden Street for 50 feet from Main Street; on the east side of Chestnut Street for 20 feet south of Main Street; and on the south side of Mountain Avenue for 25 feet from Cedar Street.
  • Prohibiting parking on the east side of Morris Avenue for 50 feet from Main Street and on the south side of Main Street for 50 feet from Morris Avenue (alongside and across from Whistling Willie’s restaurant, respectively).
  • Forbidding U-turns on Main Street.
  • Setting fines of $45, $90 and $100, respectively, for first, second and third offenses of parking in a restricted area.

Firehouse roof

The board began discussions of the condition of the Cold Spring firehouse roof and replacement of the air conditioning (HVAC) system, which fire company members described as necessary for cooling firefighters after action on a hot day and for the firehouse’s large meeting room to serve as an emergency public shelter.

The leaking “is just constant,” Cold Spring Fire Company President Matt Steltz told the board. Chief Steve Smith said one contractor estimated reroofing would cost $80,000.

Voloto observed that roof repairs must precede the HVAC, although it may be possible to repair the roof area containing the HVAC units and fix the rest of the roof later. The village owns the firehouse and thus the roof problems damage a village asset, he said.

The Village Board proposes banning parking on Church Street alongside the firehouse except for firefighters. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Early questioned whether a smaller cooling room would work for firefighters and another building, such as at Haldane, could be used as a public shelter. She recommended that village and CSFC leaders confer; the board scheduled a workshop for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, preceding the speed-limit hearing.

Along with the roof woes, the CSFC brought some good news. Smith reported the company received 127 calls in 2016, down from 145 the previous year, and that calls to rescue lost hikers were down to one or two annually because the fire company now only assists when hikers are injured. The state parks department takes care of those who are just lost, and trail stewards posted at trailheads are advising hikers about proper clothing and footwear and, most important, how much water they should have, he said.

Smith said the Cold Spring department also answered fewer carbon monoxide and fire alarm calls. “Hopefully that is because people are changing the batteries in their units, as they should when changing clocks with daylights saving,” he said, although he emphasized residents should always call the department if their alarms are sounding.

10 thoughts on “Cold Spring Considers Doubling Speed Limit to 30 mph

  1. Has this public hearing of Jan. 24 been adequately noticed? The earliest I see it published is in the PCNR of Jan. 18. That would make it a notice of six days before the meeting. I thought the requirement is 10 days before a meeting.

    There must be some confusion here. I rather doubt the village’s established speed limits where they are 15 mph need to be changed to reflect current state law. I believe these limits were established decades ago, and that they are grandfathered in. Were it mandatory to change these limits we would have heard about this a long time ago. In any case, a legal opinion is needed on this.

    • I am informed by the village website that the public hearing originally scheduled for Jan. 24 (today) on the topic of the village speed limit among others has been rescheduled to Jan. 31 at 7 PM.

  2. I agree with Mr. Haggerty that there must be some confusion. Why would anyone think 30 mph is appropriate for our village streets? Garden Street? Church Street? Wall Street? Rock Street? That is insane! Why even propose such a change? If the state has a problem with our speed limits, let them come to us.

  3. I agree that raising the speed limit to 30 is not a good idea. First of all, posted speeds will encourage people to drive that speed, as many drivers see speed limits as a suggestion as to how fast to drive. 30 mph already feels quite fast on Main Street, let alone side streets! We must also think of a future of self-driving cars which I’ve assumed will be programmed to drive posted speed limits. I do not know if this is the case, but if it is, we certainly don’t want robots driving UPS truck at 30 mph down our side streets.

  4. I also feel that raising the speed limit to 30 mph would be a very bad idea. I, for one, see all the time people who don’t follow the rules of the road, especially those who feel that making a U-turn where clearly a sign shows that U-turns are not allowed. One can get a legal opinion, which is not a bad idea, but it does not stop the people who choose to violate the rules of the road. One only needs to stand on Main Street and observe the traffic patterns to get a better picture.

  5. Why is it that virtually everything the Board of Trustees does seems designed to screw the merchants and/or the residents of Cold Spring?

    There are so many positive things that need to be done around here that would benefit this community, but instead, you get this genius idea of doubling the speed limit. Who comes up with this stuff anyway? Is there even one person on the board who is not a rubber stamp and who will stand up for the people who live and work here?

    We all pay a lot of tax money for the “privilege” of living and working in Putnam County. Compare that with how little we get back in necessary services from every branch of local government: the state, the county, the town and the Village.

    People need to start paying attention.

  6. There has to be some confusion in reading the traffic law. I read Article 1643 and it seems to be referring to roads on or adjacent to a highway, which makes perfect sense. The fact that we have so many village streets that are only one or two blocks long — a minimum speed of 30 mph is a grave danger, especially those streets with no sidewalks!

    • Your comment has not received nearly the attention it deserves. In fact, I think your comment is a critical clue as to the question of what is really going on in the minds of the village board.

      In searching online for references the New York State V&T Law Section 1643, the results are very limited. Only one easy result I found in my search is the New York State Senate which maintains/provides a text referencing 1643. I excerpt the key points of this text, as follows, first the title of the section:

      “§ 1643. Speed limits on highways in cities and villages.”

      In other words, the title of Section (not Article) 1643 refers to “Speed Limits on HIGHWAYS…IN VILLAGES!” Sorry here for the caps but in this case how can one be more clear? Section 1643 covers “Highways…in Villages”.

      Pending a consultation with a qualified attorney, in open session via a public hearing of the village board on this matter, to by paid for by the village board, not by me (and please see my last paragraph below), and while I am not a lawyer, like anyone else, I, for now, will tend to understand “highways” to mean highways. Thus, 1643 does not apply to any other types of roads in this, or any other, village.

      Furthermore, in practical support of this interpretation, there are too many other municipalities nearby, in the state of New York, we have come to learn, having posted speed limits on a variety of streets below 30 mph for this to be a mere coincidence. (Of course I don’t know anything on this topic with certainty. But the one common point I am trying to make here is I don’t think anyone else knows anything on this topic with certainty — I have yet to be convinced otherwise -– and I believe this has led to many people operating on unsubstantiated and unsupportable premises.)

      The relevant body of the text here follows:

      “The legislative body of any city or village with respect to highways…may by local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation establish maximum speed limits at which vehicles may proceed within such city or village, within designated areas of such city or village or on or along designated highways within such city or village higher or lower than the fifty-five miles per hour maximum statutory limit.

      No such speed limit applicable throughout such city or village or within designated areas of such city or village shall be established at less than thirty miles per hour; except…on any portion of the following highways in such city…”

      “No such speed limit applicable on or along designated highways within such city or village shall be established at less than twenty-five miles per hour…”

      The state code in question, 1643, clearly and repeatedly refers to highways. That’s it folks. Highways. For me, that presumably means 301 and 9D and nothing else.

      We expect our village board to be correctly and fully informed as they act as our public servants. Implicit in this is the requirement to thusly inform us, the public, the residents, the voters. In this case there is very strong evidence that the board is not correctly and fully informed. In fact the board on this topic has been adamant, “authoritative,” touchy, secretive, patronizing, even intimidating, and this sort of behavior is at a minimum a serious concern, generally. But is it also suspicious; it should be viewed as a red flag…

      Either the board knows it is willfully misleading the public, or the trustees generally don’t know what they are doing. I cannot say which is the case. Regardless, either way, “group think,” hubris and confabulation appear much in evidence.

      This current episode seems to have started with Marie Early’s “reading” of the state law. Frances Murphy and Marie Early then both referred to attempts on the part of previous boards to petition the state to change a law which, quoting Early, was passed “decades ago.” Our current law establishing a 15 mph speed limit throughout most, but not all, of the village, was passed in 1996 — curiously, also “decades ago” -– which begs the question of which law came first.

      Carefully viewing and listening to Early and Murphy, they both maintain a strong air of familiarity and knowledgability on the facts in this case. But they come across as defensive, and/or authoritative, or evasive, when questioned.

      This entire affair, now, is frankly bizarre. And thus it calls much into question.

      It seems to me the trustees are now running this board as their own private fiefdom, living in their own world, operating with a sort of bunker mentality, making their understandings and conclusions based on the opinions of a few numbers, while blindly and blithely denying or misinterpreting counter-examples or alternative ideas brought to them by members of the general public. What is really going on there? Who among us, simple village residents, have the time to watch their every move?

      Context is perhaps needed for the many readers who are likely unaware: I supported and volunteered for Marie Early and Dave Merandy in the election two years ago against candidates Ferris and Malloy.

      In conclusion, I would like to see the board provide the original text of 1643 they are using to come to their understandings, along with any other relevant notes or sections; to produce copies of or the evidence of the various petitions and requests for the changes previous village administrations supposedly have sent to Albany; and to provide direct legal opinions by a qualified attorney to the entire board, and the public, in public session (i.e., not what Early has done which was supposedly to hear advice apparently given her only in private, which she then related in a hearsay fashion in recent public meetings).

      • To clarify, in Title I of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, “Words and Phrases Defined,” highway is defined as “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.”

  7. Nothing seems to get done in Cold Spring, and Albany is often the excuse. I have been petitioning for a crosswalk at Main and Fair for six years. Now it appears they started and have stopped half-way. What’s up with that? And the newly painted lines across Fair Street are at a bizarre angle. Why?

    The wrongness of 30 mph on side streets has been amply covered here.

    The pushback at corners is important to turning traffic, not just at the intersection of 9D. That easement should have been in place at the Fair and Main corner and others years ago, as it continues to be difficult to move into Main because of near-corner parked cars blocking views of traffic.

    All laws, from Albany or wherever, must be contextualized for intelligent application to be accomplished.