Does Cold Spring Need Another Traffic Light?

Plus, tire marking by police ruled unconstitutional

By Michael Turton

Rena Corey wants to see red — the bright red of a traffic signal she says is desperately needed in Cold Spring so seniors can safely cross Route 9D for postal, medical and other services offered at the Butterfield redevelopment project.

Corey, who is one of more than 60 residents of the Chestnut Ridge apartment complex across from the project, addressed the Cold Spring Village Board at its April 23 meeting, pointing out that while a light has been discussed for years, “now we have a medical center, a [county] Friendship Center and a post office” at Butterfield. “I don’t dare cross 9D to get to any of those buildings; it is impossible to cross that street.”

Rena Corey at the April 23 Village Board meeting (Photo by M. Turton)

North and southbound traffic combined with vehicles entering and leaving Butterfield create “a menace” according to Corey. “It’s a dangerous situation.”

The village currently has only one signal, at the intersection of Route 9D and Main Street, about three blocks north of Chestnut Ridge.

Corey said she spoke with officials from the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Route 9D, and was told that a traffic study would have to be conducted before a light could be installed, and for that to happen, the Village Board would need to pass a resolution giving its support.

That led to a lengthy exchange between Corey and Mayor Dave Merandy.

The mayor placed some of the responsibility for traffic issues on the Butterfield developer and the seniors themselves.

“When our Planning Board was discussing all this, it was pressured by the seniors to just get it done,” he said, adding that the state completed a traffic study during the planning process for the Butterfield project.

The Department of Transportation, he asserted, “knew exactly what was going to happen there — the Friendship Center, doctor’s offices, all those apartment buildings,” Merandy said. A light was not recommended at the time and Butterfield plans haven’t changed, he said.

“You’re mixing apples and oranges,” Corey responded. “The necessity for a senior center has really nothing to do with the traffic light.”

A crosswalk on Route 9 connects Chestnut Ridge and the Butterfield complex (at left). (Photo by M. Turton)

When Merandy persisted in his criticism of seniors’ lobbying, commenting they had not given the Planning Board and village “enough breathing room” in dealing with Butterfield, Corey shot back, sarcastically: “They [seniors] are a dangerous group, I understand.”

“I agree, they are a very powerful group,” Merandy said. “Ask any politician.”

Corey was quick to react. “I didn’t know I’m that powerful,” she said. “But if I am, get that traffic light resolution done tonight!”

Deputy Mayor Marie Early suggested that Chestnut Ridge seniors use the bus service provided by Putnam County to get to facilities at Butterfield.

“That’s wonderful,” Corey said, “But it’s a right to take a walk and cross the street. What could be healthier for older people than to be able to take a walk?”

She said there is one way to get a traffic light right away. “Somebody gets killed,” she said. “Immediately you get a traffic light.”

Larry Burke, the officer-in-charge for the Cold Spring Police Department, said one idea that came out of a meeting he had with Department of Transportation officials was a flashing caution light with a button that could change the light to red.

He added the cost for any type of light would be at least $100,000. “Ultimately it’s not going to be up to us,” he said. “DOT is going to go by its own plans.” Merandy said that he would follow up with the state.

Tire marking

Trustee Lynn Miller pointed out that a federal appeals court in Cincinnati recently ruled that marking tires to determine parking violations is unconstitutional.

The court ruled that by marking tires with chalk, a municipality “commences its search on vehicles that are parked legally without probable cause or even so much as ‘individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.’ ” It added that the “intentional physical contact” by a parking officer with a vehicle constitutes trespass.

Although the decision only applies in the 6th District, which doesn’t include New York, Miller said she can foresee tickets being challenged in Cold Spring traffic court.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Officer-in-Charge Burke said.

Trustees approved again hiring Nico DellaValle as parking enforcement officer over the summer for $15 an hour.

In other business …

♦ The board adopted the 2019-20 village budget, which includes spending of $2.5 million, of which $1.66 million will be raised through taxes, the maximum allowed under a state-imposed cap. The budgets for water and sewer, which are funded through user fees, were also approved.

♦ The board approved an extensive application form for special events at Dockside Park.

14 Responses to "Does Cold Spring Need Another Traffic Light?"

  1. Patty Villanova   April 27, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Kudos to Mike Turton, who has written another wonderful article that shows the real attitude of the mayor and village officials concerning the wants and needs of residents and stakeholders of Cold Spring.

    The senior citizens, who waited decades to get equality with the other towns in Putnam County and have their own taxpayer-funded center, can now wait another 50 years before they can get a simple stoplight so they cross the street safely.

    I applaud Ms. Corey for having the courage of her convictions such that she would actually dare to confront King Merandy and risk his wrath which, as per usual, is directed at the taxpaying-resident who is simply asking government to do its job.

    It is really disgraceful that instead of acting like a responsible public official and working for the good of the community and the seniors who have done so much for Cold Spring during their lives, Merandy instead basically tells Ms. Corey to take a hike. Truly it’s a mystery how this man can keep getting elected to anything.

    Then we have the little issue of tire-marking, which apparently is unconstitutional. But according Officer-in-Charge Burke, it’s not a problem for the village cops, who will just keep on marking until someone sues the village and makes an issue of it.

    Cold Spring — and the beat goes on …

    Reply
  2. Frank Haggerty   April 27, 2019 at 10:51 am

    At the very least the deteriorated sidewalk (at one end of this crosswalk) in the island west of 9D at the intersection of Chestnut should be repaired and upgraded. Perhaps there could be state money for this. Not clear if the Butterfield developer could be held to be responsible for this need — perhaps.

    At most I would imagine a pedestrian on-demand stop light, normally a flashing yellow (as suggested in the article by Officer Burke) would be warranted. It has become a hazardous intersection area, as I have stated in the past, due to the tendency for speed limit and no left turn signs to be taken out in icy winters when automobiles go off the curvy road, as they are prone to do.

    Pedestrian safety is, by far, one of the key benefits and one of the key attractions the Village of Cold Spring offers. I would think all residents, and most commercial interests would support maintaining and even improving this benefit — one that is, often tragically, all too uncommon in our region, and across much of this nation. Part of this benefit of course involves all concerned accepting their responsibility for pedestrian and traffic safety.

    Reply
  3. Donna Anderson   April 27, 2019 at 11:13 am

    The traffic light would also be useful for the many who will be living at the Butterfield site to get to the pharmacy as well as the plaza where Foodtown is, not only the seniors at Chestnut Ridge. The flashing caution light idea like the one on Main and Chestnut would be wonderful.

    Reply
  4. John Cronin   April 27, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    Bravo to Officer Burke for offering a smart solution that will burden no one. It is a dangerous crosswalk. My mom, 93, cannot cross there safely — after all, there is a reason that Downey Oil is a favored stakeout spot for speeders. But the Village Police cannot patrol that section of road 24-7. The services available on the east side of 9D should be an easy and safe passage for all, as should be the westward walk to the Village proper. An on-demand traffic light is the answer.

    Reply
  5. Kathleen E. Foley   April 27, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    What? The Environmental Assessment Form for the Butterfield Project was insufficient related to pedestrian and vehicular safety? Shocking. Who would have imagined?

    Reply
  6. Patty Villanova   April 28, 2019 at 8:34 am

    One other thing: Why didn’t Mayor Merandy and the other officials deal with this simple and obvious problem during the many years that they were in negotiations and litigation with the developer?

    Many, many thousands of dollars were spent by the Village for planning and traffic studies, well before they put a shovel in the ground for this project. Yet nobody could figure out that they were going to need a traffic light at the main intersection? Seems like pretty basic stuff.

    Reply
  7. Frank Haggerty   April 28, 2019 at 11:20 am

    I submitted what in its final version was a nine-page public comment to the Planning Board challenging, among other points, the adequacy and accuracy of this site’s traffic and pedestrian plan. It should be on record.

    Many other village residents were similarly critical, particularly of the scale of the development, but tragically the approval process over years became a divisive political football, resulting in a wound, between certain factions and interests, which clearly has not healed.

    Although undoubtedly he had his opinions, Dave Merandy was not mayor at the time the Butterfield reports and plans were made, so certainly he cannot be held responsible. In any case, mayors can simply unilaterally override errors and insufficiencies in a report approved by the village’s Planning Board. Mayors, while probably by charter more powerful then they should be, are not in the league of kings.

    The pedestrian and traffic issues are going to get much worse once all the construction is completed (there is much more to come), and the site is fully occupied. For details, please see my comment. If needed I can release a copy to this newspaper, especially if this paper decides to feature a reprise or a status report on the Butterfield development — I would encourage it to do so.

    Mitigation of hazards here is, and will always remain, possible. But it would best done before any serious accident occurs.

    Reply
  8. Kathleen E. Foley   April 28, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Pedestrian safety, vehicular flow and parking were among many issues that were raised by many members of the public during the review process for Butterfield’s environmental assessment. The EAF is public document, as are letters and minutes of meetings — all FOILable.

    The former Planning Board chair who led that process didn’t have much interest in anything the public had to say at the time, and neither did the consulting planners he hired to review submitted documents and advise his board’s deliberations. Now, even before the site is finished, a good number of the problems predicted by the public are becoming manifest. I shudder to think of what happens to our village water supply once all those toilets and showers come on-line in the condos.

    You could certainly address your inquiry to the former Planning Board chair, and while you’re chatting, ask him about your other very real concern — the paucity of tourism dollars that are spent by Putnam County in Philipstown, which as you often rightly point out is the tourism engine for Putnam. Not long after the Butterfield review process ended, that gentleman became chair of the county tourism board.

    Gosh, but the circles are small in this county.

    Reply
  9. Ethan Timm   April 28, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    A light at Chestnut ridge is a tricky proposition. Will it drive more traffic down Chestnut street? Will it cause backups up into Butterfield? In front of Benedict/Food Town? Ominously, the Butterfield parking lot is already unpleasant with Post Office traffic alone … a guess a traffic study can kick the can down the road a bit.

    Or maybe what Cold Spring/Nelsonville needs is an electric-powered or hybrid electic circulator trolley that is (truly) ADA accessible, operates on a fixed and predictable schedule (timed to Metro North arrival/departure) 7 days a week with extra runs/extended service on weekends and holidays.

    How could we fund this, you ask?

    1. Parking meters on Main Street. (This will also eliminate unconstitutional chalk marking as well.)
    2. Peak fares for morning/evening commuters who will no longer be able to park all day on village streets so they’ll need to ride the trolley.

    Reply
  10. Kathleen E. Foley   April 29, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Excellent points made by Ethan Timm, and a proposition worth exploring. There are always unintended consequences of traffic-pattern changes, and it’s super important to plan for worst-case scenarios that move the problem to different locations, creating different challenges.

    Chestnut Street needs to be considered as a system, not just at that one intersection. That was one of the multiple failings, in my view, of the incomplete and inaccurate traffic study that was accepted by the former planning board chair for the Butterfield project EAF.

    Too, we live in a walkable village. If all of us villagers made better efforts to walk to our conveniently located school, stores, banks, and health care practitioners, that would cut traffic throughout our community a great deal. Sure, it doesn’t solve for people driving into or through Cold Spring, but it’s a solid start at reducing congestion, pedestrian/car interactions and carbon emissions in the village

    Reply
  11. Frank Haggerty   April 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I am compelled to respond to the recent, earnest comments. Most of the questions Ethan Timm asks may be summarized as, “What happens when growth occurs?” It is a timely and always valid question that can only be comprehensively answered by a village level planning study which is willing to acknowledge that there are not only benefits but as well often significant costs associated with “growth,” and that the two are not necessarily evenly shared within a community.

    Please bear in mind that in North America there are two widely disparate cultures with respect to motor vehicles (to which I would adjunct bicycles) and to pedestrians. One favors driving just about everywhere while the other much favors walking. Between those two extremes is where I think most of us in the village are: we do some of both, depending on the situation.

    Although it’s a wonderful idea, a regularly operating village trolley, probably with a circuit time of no less than 30 minutes, is not going to help seniors more safely cross 9D from Chestnut Ridge to get to or from the redeveloped Butterfield site, and to the Foodtown and Drug World shopping centers.

    More walking in the village is an other wonderful idea. It assumes, however, a certain level of respect for the sidewalk as a concept and as a utility, by governments which maintain, clear, improve and, ideally, expand them, by storefronts, residents, and others, not to block them, but to keep them clean, sanitary, and clear and passable, and by teenagers and others not to use them as concrete playgrounds or raceways. We would need to get to that level of respect and understanding.

    Lastly, no one should assume that any parking fees the village collects will go toward public transportation. Villages are too starved, and too desirous, of revenues for that to happen, realistically. A village or joint Nelsonville-Cold Spring scale public transportation system would need federal and state money, a garage, a locally-controlled management, and professional drivers who will expect to be paid. The fares will need to cover a sizeable portion of the total operating costs. Still, it’s a great idea.

    As a member of the hibernating village parking committee, I remain much disinclined to support any traditional parking meters on Main Street. I *might* be in favor of a limited system which would, for each user, in each case, allow free parking for the first one or two hours, then onto a fee-based system afterwards. But I am also in support of strict enforcement of illegal parking, all too often occurring on busy days, if it blocks all or part of any street or crosswalk.

    Great discussion, regardless, and all the more so as it’s in public and that it’s documented.

    Reply
  12. Ethan Timm   May 1, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Frank, thank you for your thoughtful reply. The interesting fact is that we already have a trolley, and I have just received data regarding its budget/ridership via a FOIA request. A cursory glance at the data reveals that ridership on the trolley has dropped from 8300 passengers in 2007 to 1527 in 2018. Cost/ride in 2018 was $18.73.

    This seems to me to be a wildly underutilized resource which could be reallocated to actually serving both residents and tourists alike. Frank, you write that a trolley “is not going to help seniors more safely cross 9D from Chestnut Ridge to get to or from the redeveloped Butterfield site, and to the Foodtown and Drug World shopping centers.” I don’t see that this is necessarily true, if a trolley visited these locations. Furthermore, at $100,000, a light in this location would be costing a while lot and solving only one problem (while perhaps creating others). I comprehensive transportation solution which allowed seniors access to all our village has to offer in a safe, reliable manner, seems better than an iffy bet on scurrying across 9D before the light changes again.

    I understand that there has been much ink spilled regarding parking meters on Main St. As a business owner who lives, works, and shops on Main St, I see no reason that a modern pay-to-park system couldn’t be tailored to make sure that quick stop businesses are not impacted, while recognizing that it should not be the responsibility of the taxpayers of this village to maintain 267+ free parking spaces with no outside remuneration.

    The turning point for me was listening to Donald Shoup describe demand-based pricing not as a revenue stream but as a tool to “create one or two open spaces on every block.” I see many people park their cars and run to catch a train. Shoup argues that this should be perfectly legal, but that the village should be able to tap into this demand as a revenue stream (just as the MTA does). Alternatively, parking on Main St. when there is very low demand could be almost free (or free).

    I have seen many cars circle around looking for parking and then leave – this hurts business. I have also had many tourists ask me who they should pay to park. I’m always tempted to say “me,” but then admit to them that our village does not collect any money for parking. They generally seem flabbergasted ~ I doubt $5 would make them pack up their things to find then next quaint river town – none really compares and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. Parking revenue could be allocated to trolley and other pedestrian upgrades you mention such as sidewalk clearing and maintenance.

    Reply
    • Michael Armstrong   May 3, 2019 at 7:44 pm

      As the person who led the 2008 Cold Spring Parking study that recommended that parking meters be installed on Main Street and the municipal lot, I appreciate — and largely agree with — Ethan Timm’s thoughtful comments.

      Shoup’s astonishing idea — backed by solid statistics and hundreds of pages of vivid arguments — is that parking meters create access to parking. Realistically, however, there is a legal problem with metering in New York State that makes it a hard sell here in the Village.

      Municipalities are not permitted to exempt residents from paying for meters in their towns. Forbidding such exemptions in business districts is, I think, a good idea. The trouble comes when trying to resolve parking congestion on residential streets, in residential districts adjacent to the business district. While I have argued that these residents would be no worse off if Main Street were metered (and I firmly believe this is true), I am sympathetic when residents are upset that their problems are not being solved by meters, when they could be.

      Congested residential streets should be metered, with local residents themselves exempt from paying the meter. I have asked Assemblywoman Sandy Galef to ask the Transportation Committee to study the issue and make this important change: Allow residents in residential districts adjacent to business districts to be exempt from parking meter charges.

      Reply
  13. Evan Hudson   May 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

    While we are on the topic of traffic-calming measures, what about the crosswalk at the intersection of Route 9D and Craigside Drive? It is heavily used by children going to and from Haldane Elementary and High School–and crossed by drivers at speeds sometimes exceeding 50 mph. If our village’s seniors need help–and maybe they do!–what about our children?

    Reply

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