Seastreak Plans Return

Cruise line requests at least 11 fall dockings

By Michael Turton

The boats will be back: The Seastreak cruise line has requested permission to dock on the Cold Spring waterfront again this fall.

At its Aug. 22 meeting, the Village Board of Trustees reviewed a proposed schedule provided by the company, which operates Hudson River excursions that depart from Highland, New Jersey, and New York City. It began its fall cruises to Cold Spring in 2013.

A boat would arrive at the waterfront at 11:45 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday from Oct. 7 through Nov. 11, departing at 3:30 p.m. If ticket sales warrant, a second boat would arrive at 12:45 p.m. and depart at 4:30 p.m., wrote Brett Chamberlain, the line’s director of marketing, in a letter to the board. Should a third boat be required, which has occurred in the past, it would dock at 1:45 p.m. and leave at 5:30 p.m.

Each boat has a capacity of 500 passengers.

Each Seastreak boat can carry up to 500 passengers. (File photo by M. Turton)

Mayor Dave Merandy said he opposes allowing a third boat. Unlike the number of hikers who pass through Cold Spring on weekends, he said the dockings are “something we can actually control.”

Trustee Lynn Miller, co-owner of Go Go Pops on Main Street, said that even with the staggered arrival times, a third boat would mean up to 1,500 passengers in the village for part of the day. “There aren’t enough seats in the restaurants,” she said. “Everyone ends up disappointed.”

Seastreak passengers provide robust business for Main Street shops, although for restaurants and cafés it can be a headache because within minutes of the first boat’s arrival seemingly every seat in the village is taken. Those who aren’t seated during the first wave wait impatiently outside, or go hungry. For that reason, restaurant owners suggested a staggered schedule.

Merandy said he would like each boat to leave the dock after dropping off passengers, pointing out that the large vessels block scenic views. He also would like the company to give notice of the number of passengers expected on each boat.

The mayor suggested approving one boat per day initially while negotiations continue. However, the board took no action.

The fall cruises provide revenue not only for local businesses but for the village, which charges $6 per foot each time one of the 140-foot vessels docks. Eleven dockings  would generate a total of $9,240. The rate increases by $2 per foot if the boat remains at the dock.

But, Merandy argued, “we shouldn’t just be thinking about money.” After it was noted that the first two Saturday cruises would conflict with weddings planned for the bandstand area, he added, “weddings are part of the charm of the village.” The village charges $250 for riverfront weddings.

Deputy Mayor Marie Early will continue discussions with Seastreak officials, including a request to revise the schedule to avoid conflict with the weddings.

In other business …

  • The Knights of Columbus have requested a police officer for its annual Oktoberfest at Mayor’s Park on Sept. 23 and 24. The fundraiser, which benefits the Knights, Our Lady of Loretto and Special Olympics, has drawn 1,500 to 2,000 people. Merandy said the Knights would be responsible for the cost of extra policing but promised to discuss it with Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke. He noted it was unlikely an officer would be stationed at the park for the entire event, which runs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
  • The owners of 11 Market St. have asked to purchase an adjacent lot owned by the village. The 900-square-foot corner property at Market and New streets has a fire hydrant but is otherwise vacant. Merandy said he does not favor “selling off every bit of green space.” Trustee Fran Murphy said she supports selling small village-owned parcels to get them on the tax rolls. The owners have indicated they would store a boat on the property, prompting Trustee Steve Voloto to comment, “I don’t know how attractive it would be to have a boat parked there.” No action was taken pending completion of a survey.

13 thoughts on “Seastreak Plans Return

  1. As usual, the Village “trustees” have complete disregard for the merchants of Main Street who rely on the Seastreak for our last quarter income and profits. Last time I looked, Cold Spring was still a part of the U.S. and subject to the rule of law as laid out in our Constitution.

    Since when does a local village government have the right to act in restraint of trade? Since when do Mayor Merandy and company have the right to interfere in private business and control who comes in and out of the village? Since when is Cold Spring a dictatorship where the officials can act in such an arbitrary, lawless and capricious fashion?

    The free market that the Powers That Be hate so much will take care of the Seastreak traffic. If visitors can’t find a place to eat where and when they want, they will find other options, or if it’s that important to them, they will post a review on Yelp or somewhere saying what a horrible experience they had.

    Leave it to Mayor Merandy to use the Breakneck situation to try and promote his anti-business, anti-commerce agenda. There is no comparison between the Seastreak tourist boats and the hordes of ill-prepared hikers who clog the roads and get stuck on the mountain.

    The Seastreak brings us hundreds of people who come here for a few hours and spend a lot of money, some of which ends up in the government coffers. The Breakneck people don’t spend any money to speak of and cause a huge demand for emergency and other municipal services. If anyone needs to be discouraged, it’s the Breakneck hikers. Do some advertising and promotion suggesting that instead of risking life and limb on the mountain, they should spend some time in the wonderful Village of Cold Spring, one of the best shopping and dining spots in the Hudson Valley.

  2. Cold Spring is a desirable place in many ways. Our picturesque location, abundant arts venues, unique shops, friendly residents and historic architecture make our small piece of heaven a popular destination for many, many people. To some, like my family, it resonated immediately as a place to call home so we bought a house, became involved in our community and then, by necessity, started a business here.

    By its very nature, the Village is small and compact as are the shops and thoroughfares in the business district. To preserve all that makes Cold Spring desirable, part of the Village Board’s job is to manage the crowds, as best we can, so that everyone — residents and tourists alike — can enjoy our unique surroundings safely without undue strain on our infrastructure. It’s a tricky balancing act made more difficult by the impacts of tourism that lie outside of our control, such as the popularity of local hiking trails, the crowds they draw and the inevitable injuries that ensue from such activities.

    When discussions regarding the Seastreak arise, I’m always happy to accommodate guests who arrive by boat, alleviating some of the parking congestion we suffer. Many patronize my shop and help me keep a roof over my head, as do those who come to hike our local trails. But there are only so many I can serve effectively given our size. This is the case for every business owner on Main Street and negative Yelp reviews, especially about issues beyond my control, hurt my business. Cold Spring’s reputation as a whole is negatively impacted when visitors have an unhappy experience here.

    It’s my responsibility as one of those charged with protecting the interests of Cold Spring as a whole to do my best to proactively manage the throngs that come here during the autumn season. Allowing more people to disembark at our dock than our Village can reasonably accommodate eschews that duty and raises the risk of harm to residents, tourists and our valuable village character.

    Limiting the number of vessels and people the Seastreak brings and the time these huge boats remain at the dock assures that our infrastructure is not overtaxed, our visitors enjoy their stay no matter how they arrive, and that our Villagers can enjoy the beauty of our environment and safety their property taxes pay for. Unbridled tourism, as some desire, would do just the opposite and only assure degradation of Cold Spring’s long-term viability and all that we love about our home.

    • Trustee Lynn Miller wrote: “It’s my responsibility as one of those charged with protecting the interests of Cold Spring as a whole to do my best to proactively manage the throngs that come here during the autumn season. Allowing more people to disembark at our dock than our Village can reasonably accommodate eschews that duty and raises the risk of harm to residents, tourists and our valuable village character”

      As a business owner, taxpayer and an American citizen who is well-versed in the Constitution and its protections for our most fundamental rights, I find it preposterous that an elected official would claim such authority, let alone have the ability to act on it.

      Like I said in my first post, neither Ms. Miller nor any other trustee has the right to interfere in interstate commerce or engage in restraint of trade. These are our fundamental rights as Americans; last time I looked Cold Spring was still part of the United States, although I don’t know for how much longer since the next thing I expect to hear from the trustees is that they want to secede.

      Nowhere does it say in any of the myriad rules and regulations that are part of Village governance that the board members are responsible for doing crowd control. If it comes down to that, it’s a job for the local police department if it happens to be working that day.

      Just like every other benevolent dictator, the Village trustees are trying to seize a power that they do not have under the guise of doing what’s best for the community. Meanwhile, as a business owner, Trustee Miller should know better than anyone how important the Seastreak tourists are to our last quarter business, so it is baffling to me why she would take such a stance. If anything, she should be fighting for her fellows on Main Street and encouraging more tourism.

      The local government needs to stop trying to regulate the Seastreak. Collect the docking fees, raise them if necessary, and be happy with that. Free-market capitalism will take care of the rest. It always does.

      • The definition of “restraint of trade” in the Merriam-Webster Law Dictionary reads: “1. an act, fact, or means of curbing the free flow of commerce or trade. A covenant not to compete with an employer after leaving is in restraint of trade and must be reasonable to be enforced. 2. an attempt or intent to eliminate or stifle competition, to effect a monopoly, to maintain prices artificially, or otherwise to hamper or obstruct the course of trade and commerce as it would be if left to the control of natural and economic forces.”

        Neither the mayor nor any of the trustees dictate to any business what products they can and cannot sell, how much they charge for any item, what hours they must remain open, who they choose to market to, how much they can sell or how the interiors of their shops are kept as long as they comply with local fire, safety and zoning codes. Thus, no one is restraining anyone’s trade or stifling competition within Cold Spring’s business sector.

        I believe strongly that our village character and charm is unique, valuable and worthy of protection. Our residents’ and taxpayers’ quality of life, safety, environment and ability to enjoy their own community must also be protected. Sadly, until Putnam County decides to share some of the sales tax revenue we merchants generate, residents’ concerns take precedence over what the business sector may want. Does that seem fair? No, but that’s the reality we face. As desirable a destination as we are, it’s in Cold Spring’s best interests to protect the quality of our visitors’ experience as well.

        If tourism grows uncontrolled, it’s entirely conceivable that our sidewalks, shops and eateries would become so congested that visitors would stay away just to avoid the hassle of the crowds. Word of mouth would exacerbate that sentiment. How would our merchants fare then? Those enthralled by our beautiful surroundings would choose not to purchase homes, businesses and properties. Where would our tax base come from then? How would we maintain our water and sewer systems? How would we pay for street and refuse maintenance? How would we pay to keep the streetlights burning?

        When one considers the long-term, uncontrolled tourism degrades the quality of life for every resident and hinders economic opportunities for entrepreneurs as well. If development is uncontrolled, municipal infrastructure that services residents crumbles. Thus, planning and zoning boards are tasked with applying Village codes to assure the current infrastructure can accommodate it. (Beacon is currently struggling with this very issue.) Similarly, the mayor and trustees’ responsibilities include protecting both short- and long-term interests of the village. Managing tourism and striving for balance is just part of that — certainly not some kind of power trip.

        Speaking as a Main Street shopowner, the Seastreak is a great benefit to my business. I want the visitors the Seastreak brings, but within my ability to reasonably accommodate them. We lose customers if wait times for service are too long. We have seen Yelpers rate us poorly for being too small and crowded to meet their expectations. I accept the responsibility of making my business succeed in any way I can. If adjustments must be made, so be it. I do not hold my neighbors responsible for my success or lack thereof. That’s my burden alone.

        • I think the parts of the definition of “restraint of trade” that would apply to Seastreak situation would be “an act … or means of curbing the free flow of commerce or trade … or otherwise to hamper or obstruct the course of trade and commerce as it would be if left to the control of natural and economic forces.” The key words in this case being “natural and economic forces.”

          That Putnam County does not share sales tax has become an excuse for why nothing seems to get done in Cold Spring, or a justification for all sorts of government malfeasance. Putnam County most likely never will share sales tax with the town because New York State requires counties to pick up a huge share of Medicaid costs. In Putnam, most of our budget comes from sales tax, not property tax, so county legislators claim (and rightly so) that if they were to distribute the sales tax, property taxes would rise to make up the difference. I’d rather see the money come from the tourists and other people rather than from my own pocket.

          You also write: “When one considers the long-term, uncontrolled tourism degrades the quality of life for every resident and hinders economic opportunities for entrepreneurs as well.”

          Every statistic about tourism points to exactly the opposite conclusion. A robust tourism industry in our towns and villages brings in the money for infrastructure, street lights (by the way, whatever happened to our new lights?) and all the other things that will have to be picked up by local taxpayers.

          I find it hard to believe that we are going to get so many people on the Seastreak that they will have a deleterious effect such that it causes us all to go out of business and close up the sidewalks. In fact, last year (if memory serves), many of the boats were not even at capacity. There were some weekends they didn’t even have 200 people and some of us were worried that it was so unprofitable the Seastreak might not even come here anymore. I guess that would make some people very happy.

  3. Beacon likely would be more than happy to accommodate Seastreak on weekends during the autumn. The Newburgh-Beacon ferry operates only during the week, so conflict there is no issue. Seems worthy of consideration!

  4. Generally speaking it might not be good for the reputation of Cold Spring, or for any and all involved, where it becomes too crowded and too congested such that restaurants and other services are repeatedly and predictably overloaded. The quality of the experience for everyone is diluted; presumably some will thereby be displeased or unimpressed. To the extent the village board can manage to control and maintain some minimum standard of quality in and about the local environment, and where it is evidently within its authority, it should do so.

    Certainly there are a range of advantages, I think many would agree, if and as visitors are able to arrive by means other than in personal automobiles — chiefly speaking, boats and trains fit this bill.

    Just perhaps the greater number of boats scheduled to arrive on weekend days might be restricted and reduced, and solitary or if necessary a few smaller boats be scheduled for Fridays, Mondays, etc. The could have the effect of producing a more steady and level impact based strictly on the numbers of visitors, at any one time, to the village. The consistency and the quality of the experience may thereby be enhanced.

    • Please see my other comments. It is not the job of our Village officials to preside over the “tourism experience” of our visitors like Cold Spring is some kind of restaurant or amusement park.

  5. Why not simply raise prices? Seastreak finds it profitable to sell tickets to 500 passengers per boat, and even bring three boats into Cold Spring on fall days. Let’s say that Cold Spring raised docking fees to $24/foot (from the current $6). Seastreak, to maintain its margins, would just boost ticket prices, which would trim demand. Even if half as many people might be able to afford the trip (and quickly find a place to sit), the Village revenues could more than double. Why not give the market a chance to sort this out?

    • This would basically be another civil rights violation: that is, have the Village Board raise the docking fees arbitrarily to such an amount it would force the Seastreak to raise its prices so high that nobody will buy tickets because they will be unaffordable!

      It’s as if the government were saying, we don’t think you can handle that many people in your business so we are going to stop all those customers from coming to your establishment. I’ll bet lawsuits would be filed in a New York minute.

      Instead of wasting all this time and effort to stop tourism, village officials and any other concerned citizens should be trying to get money for infrastructure and services from the county and the other government agencies. I challenge everyone to come to the meeting at the firehouse tomorrow night and speak out. There will be people there who want to know how they can help Cold Spring. Why don’t you voice your concerns there and ask them for what we really need: money.

      Harassing the Seastreak is going to do nothing to solve the problems of Cold Spring. By forcing them out of the area like this, the only ones who will be harmed will be the local business owners. Is that really what Merandy & company want?

      • I do not see how raising docking fees to reasonable levels would violate the civil rights of the boat operators (or any one else). Exactly which rights would be cited in such a complaint?

        Seastreak charges $85 per adult for round trips to Cold Spring from New York City. That means the gross revenue per trip, with 500 passengers, may exceed $40,000. The village now charges a paltry $840 for each docking. Quadrupling that, as I have suggested, would bring the village’s fees to $3,360, or just 8 percent of the gross at current prices. This suggests that a very modest price hike would take care of the fee increase. The claim that “no one” would buy tickets is hyperbole.

        In fact, the goal here should be to find an equilibrium — a sustainable balance between the number of tourists arriving on these big boats and the burdens imposed on residents and the local government. I wholeheartedly support a healthy tourism in the Village, as it is spelled out in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. Businesses that depend on tourism should recognize that having huge numbers of visitors flooding into our tiny Main Street will eventually have residents up in arms, demanding that we go back to the not so long ago bad old days when all docking was banned.

  6. According to the U.S. Constitution, powers not expressly held by the federal government are reserved to the sovereign states. Notably, matters of regulation of health and safety are among those kept by the states, such as the authorities to enforce zoning and building codes, traffic regulations and raising a police force. Thus, Trustee Miller takes her responsibilities seriously and many of us are very pleased that she and the mayor and other trustees do likewise. They are obviously sensitive to the fact that they serve the people who live here year-round, not just the tourist trade.

    Free-market capitalism will also take care of those who choose to engage in a business that is essentially only seasonal, which in Cold Spring means less than six months a year, but expect government to make them successful. Entrepreneurship means taking risk. If a business cannot gauge the market’s demand for its goods or services, it may be doomed to fail. Government should not be there to bail them out. Not with my tax dollars!

    Finally, to the best of my knowledge, Seastreak’s tour to Cold Spring does not cross state lines, therefore it is not engaged in interstate commerce.

    • I don’t know of any Cold Spring entrepreneurs or business owners who rely on any government entity for their success. In fact, most of the Main Street business owners, especially the newer ones, have invested and risked many, many thousands of dollars to build out their shops and set up a business, with no government assistance and no guarantee of success. However, what I don’t think anyone expected was to have local officials throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings and actively get in the way of their trying to make a living.

      The business owners have chosen to roll the dice and see if they can make it in the increasingly difficult world of brick-and-mortar retail. I admire their courage and their creativity, because in my estimation, bricks are rapidly being replaced by clicks, and the only thing that makes Cold Spring viable is tourism, which, as I have come to find out during my tenure on Main Street, apparently is the most reviled industry ever to spring up in this part of the Hudson River Valley.

      Anyone reading some of the comments on this article would think that the people who visit on the Seastreak are some kind of barbarians who come to plunder and destroy our quaint little village, aided and abetted by the nefarious merchants and business owners.

      At a time when every other municipality in the U.S. is trying to figure out ways to get more tourism dollars into their community, we have a dedicated group of town officials and residents who seem to want to do everything they can to stop tourists from coming to Cold Spring. Frankly, I am baffled by all the hostility towards the very merchants who are keeping taxes low and generating tons of money to the local economy. Is there something else besides tourism that would be satisfactory to the people who are complaining?